[WATCH] Fearne hints at further group restrictions in fight against COVID-19 as winter approaches

On TVM’s Xtra Sajf, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne hints at tightening restrictions on group gathering as he calls for intergenerational solidarity

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne
Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne

Tightening the restrictions on group gatherings may be on the cards as the winter months approach, Chris Fearne has suggested in the fight against COVID-19.

Speaking on TVM’s Xtra Sajf on Thursday night, Fearne explained that as the weather gets colder it will become more likely for people to start meeting indoors, which may necessitate stricter control.

“So far, we have said that there cannot be more than 15 people together in a group. Now that the weather is turning, it is more likely that people will start meeting inside instead of outside, so probably it will be important for us to reduce that group of 15,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

However, he called for adherence to existing measures, insisting this is not merely a question of administering fines but should be done willingly as an exercise in solidarity.

“Solidarity between us – that we do not just look after our own health, but look after the health of the rest of society as well – is a cardinal principle that we need to continue stressing,” he said.

Fearne emphasised how crucial it is for younger and stronger people in society to show solidarity with those who are most vulnerable by abiding by the preventive measures, noting that this will help decrease the chances of such individuals becoming infected. 

“Life must go on, but we need to show solidarity with each other. The lower the numbers are in the community, the lower the risk that the virus will get to vulnerable people, not just in old peoples’ homes, but everywhere,” he said.

Malta has witnessed an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases in elderly homes over recent weeks, leading to more deaths from the virus.

Fearne said that all old peoples’ homes, both public and private, were being monitored by the government and provided with all the aid they required.  

He insisted that the government took all the necessary measures to reduce the risk of the virus entering these homes but acknowledged that this was not always successful, noting that staff members themselves may have been the ones who brought the virus in.

“Probably it came with the carers themselves because the carers are part of society and once the virus is in society it will be on a number of staff members, and there was a small number of cases were this spread,” he said.

The Health Minister said the government was implementing new measures, with the latest being an agreement with the Medical Association of Malta that will see a team of infective diseases specialists visiting patients in the homes.

On the COVID-19 vaccine, Fearne said there was no proven vaccine available as yet but agreements are in place to ensure that Malta will be among the first countries to receive the vaccine once it is out.

“There are companies who are carrying out advanced research and trials to bring this vaccine on the market in the coming weeks and months, and we, as Malta, are part of the European group that already has an order in place with these companies,” he added.

The minister explained that Malta currently has 300,000 vaccines pre-ordered, with further orders also in place to raise the number to 500,000 vaccines if this becomes necessary.

However, while lauding Malta’s preparations for the eventual Covid-19 vaccine, Fearne also stressed the importance for people to inoculate themselves with the seasonal influenza vaccine once this becomes available.

“We know that every year influenza has serious consequences. We know, as we are seeing, that the coronavirus can have serious consequences. If you have influenza and coronavirus together, or you get sick with one while recovering from the other, the consequences will be much worse,” he said. 

The Health Minister said the first 15,000 doses of influenza vaccine will arrive in Malta on Friday. A total of 200,000 doses will be available.

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