'Lighting without UV filters' left Muscat with temporarily impaired vision - sources

Damage to Prime Minister's eyes is believed to have been caused by UV radiation.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addressing the political activity at Zurrieq that left him temporarily blinded
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addressing the political activity at Zurrieq that left him temporarily blinded

*Updated to remove incorrect references to Silvio Scerri as owner of Nexos Lighting Technology and adds Home Affairs Ministry's reply. Any inconvenience caused is regretted.

The damage to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s eyes is believed to have occurred from bright lights without UV filters during a Sunday activity. However, investigators are also looking at the possibility that the UV radiation could have emanated from cameras as well.

Doctors have advised Muscat to stay at home until he has fully recovered from acute pain to both of his eyes. Sources told MaltaToday that during the first few days after the incident, the prime minister could hardly open his eyes, let alone look at a television screen or a computer.

He is also said to have suffered light skin burns.

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 severe 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 suffered from temporary blindness, caused by burns to his cornea, and burns to his face.

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 the possibility that the radiation may have originated from cameras - belonging to different news stations - is not being ruled out, sources said it is far more likely that it came from lighting installed in the tent, provided by Nexos Lighting Technology.

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

According to consultant dermatologist Lawrence Scerri, exposure to UV lighting may result in skin burn. “However, most of the damage is done to the eyes, and I would be surprised if the skin were to be severely conditioned in such a short period of time,” Scerri explained.

He said that just like sunbathing, the longer the exposure, the harsher the effects to the skin.

Having been placed at the centre of the tent, Joseph Muscat was the one to suffer the most injury 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.

Tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis, parliamentary secretaries Michael Falzon and Chris Fearne have returned to work and attended Tuesday’’ parliamentary sitting.

Home Affairs Ministry replies

The Home Affairs Ministry categorically denies what has been alleged against its chief of staff, Silvio Scerri. Scerri absolutely has no ties to company Nexos & Co Ltd after having sold his shares to third parties, two years ago.