Updated | Minister, parliamentary secretaries return to work

Over 60 persons hospitalised suffering from acute pain to their eyes.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addressing Sunday's political activity at Zurrieq
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addressing Sunday's political activity at Zurrieq

Tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis and parliamentary secretaries Michael Falzon and Chris Fearne returned to work on Tuesday after recovering from exposure to UV radiation.

As their eyes remain sensitive to sunlight, both Zammit Lewis and Fearne donned sunglasses as they made their way to the Parliament’s Chamber.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has been ordered to stay at home until he has fully recovered from acute pain to both eyes.

Muscat was hospitalised in the early hours of Monday morning suffering from acute pain to both his eyes. The same symptoms, most of them not as bad as the Prime Minister’s, were also reported by some 60 other persons – all of whom attended a political activity in Zurrieq on Sunday.

The Prime Minister yesterday suffered from temporary blindness, caused by burns to his cornea. It is believed that the burns have been caused by UV radiation. Although any use of chemicals has been ruled out, a police investigation is underway. While it is not excluded that the radiation could have come from cameras, it is being suspected that it came from lighting installed in the tent, provided by Nexos Lighting Technology.

Persons wearing spectacles and sunglasses with UV protection in fact were unharmed.

Having been placed at the centre of the tent, Joseph Muscat was the one to suffer the most injuries to his eyes. Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, junior ministers Chris Fearne and Michael Falzon, backbencher Joseph Sammut and Labour candidates for the European Parliament Elections Miriam Dalli and Cyrus Engerer were also hospitalised.

The Office of the Prime Minister confirmed that Muscat had been the “most exposed” to whatever was emitting the UV radiation. He suffered temporary blindness for around 24 hours but his vision has now improved.

“The Prime Minister has been ordered to stay at home and to slowly increase his exposure to light,” Castille said.

Sufferers said their eyes started to water and experienced burning to their eyes.

Yesterday evening in parliament, Speaker Anglu Farrugia and government and opposition representatives wished the sufferers a speedy recovery. At one point, in a show of solidarity, opposition MP Tonio Fenech chose against calling for division during a vote at committee stage despite the opposition’s strong stand against a clause that was being discussed with Finance Minister Edward Scicluna.

“Under different circumstances, I would have called for a division,” Fenech said.