[WATCH] PM: COVID measures to be eased from first week of February

Prime Minister Robert Abela slams Opposition’s ‘social media-based populist policy’ on the COVID-19 pandemic

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

Prime Minister Robert Abela announced COIVID-19 restrictions will start to be lifted in the first week of February.

“We have had a good booster roll out. Measures have worked,” Abela told party supporters at a political event in Nadur, Gozo on Sunday.

The PM followed up on statements by the Deputy PM Chris Fearne on Saturday, saying government had always said measures would be temporary.

“Science showed we need a high vaccination rate to beat the pandemic. The imposed measures have been successful, and now is the time to move forward,” Abela said.

Abela also slammed the opposition’s U-turn on coronavirus restrictions. “I cannot understand how Bernard Grech remains so populist. Restrictions were in line with other countries in Europe. The vaccine rules are there in a lot of countries.”

“First, he agreed with the measures, and then made a U-turn. This is a government that does not base its policy on social media,” Abela said.

The PM also stated the time has come for the country to follow suit in discussing whether the COVID-19 pandemic should start being treated as an endemic. “I look forward to this discussion, on whether we should be treating COVID-19 like seasonal influenza and the common cold.”

Abela said early predictions have showed it will be “a good Spring and Summer” for businesses and people alike. “This was thanks to the coordinated and well-planned approach adopted by government.”

Comparing government’s handling of the pandemic, and the PN administration’s handling of the 2008 economic crisis, Abela said the difference was clear for everyone to see.

“They used the 2008 economic crisis as an excuse. We rolled up our sleeves, and said let’s work and protect these islands and their people. They increased tariffs, taxes and introduced austerity measures. We did the opposite,” Abela said.

PN anti-corruption Bills

Speaking on the Opposition’s set of 12 legislative Bills to fight corruption and mafia-style crimes, Abela called them an attempt to “paralyse the economy”.

“They are telling us these are laws against corruption. But when you read them, you realise they are there to paralyse the economy and scare business,” he said. “My message to them is clear: you could not stagnate the economy in a pandemic, you will not do this now.”

He said the laws would brand Malta a “mafia state”. “I assure you I will be there on Thursday to defend our country.”

Institutions need to carry out their function  

Abela also spoke about the country’s institutions, following up on his initial reaction after he raid at former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s home. However, he failed to mention the former leader directly.

“Our message has been clear from the start - institutions have to be left to work in serenity, and carry out their function in line with legislative regulation,” Abela said.  

He also made an indirect reference to PN MP Jason Azzopardi, who he said is using parliamentary privilege to “terrorise institutions”.

“Institutions and authorities cannot be terrorised by individuals in order to condition their work, including by those who has no issue with showing they crossed the line,” Abela said.

Speaking on the election, Abela said it is no secret government’s mandate ends in June, warning supporters on “personal attacks” by the PN. “There is one certainty – attacks will increase. Debates will not be on policy, but personal attacks to tarnish people’s reputations. We will not allow them to divide the country.”

Candidate Rebecca Buttigieg and MEP Alex Agius Saliba also addressed the political event before Abela’s speech.