Prime Minister Robert Abela is saying what he was saying a year ago – that the Covid-19 situation is under control.
When he said these words last year, Malta was heading into the second wave of the pandemic, which led to more than 400 deaths and thousands of cases, many resulting in the need for hospital stays, with some also ending up in intensive care.
When he said those words Malta was also facing months of restrictions, social distancing measures, closure of public places and compulsory mask-wearing, not to mention the economic effects that hit various sectors of the economy, not least because people were travelling less and the tourism industry was brought to its knees.
Robert Abela is saying those words again now, at a time when Malta is facing its third wave of the crisis, with numbers multiplying over a few days which saw a jump from a mere 23 active cases to more than 2,000. It could be that, in the short term, Malta will have to go back to adopting a new set of measures to curb the rise in the number of cases.
Abela insists that the situation is “under control” because the hospital is not under duress. The number of people needing hospital treatment is still low, and there have been no deaths to report for more than a month.
This is all good, but the Prime Minister is somewhat belittling the situation when he says that all is under control. He is giving the wrong impression that we are in normal times, and this kind of talk is what pushes people to take risks.
Abela should be more cautious in the way he speaks, so as not to give people a false sense of security. He should weigh his words carefully, and not appear to dismiss the Covid-19 pandemic as something which is easy to beat.
The last 18 months have shown us that Covid-19 is a nasty virus, one that has always managed to re-emerge in spite of all that has been thrown at it. Countries which eased restrictions were forced to re-introduce them because they registered a spike in the number of cases.
It takes weeks and months for numbers to be brought down, but it takes only days for the number of new cases to increase sharply.
And although the vaccination campaign has been greatly successful, with Malta topping the list in terms of per capita jabs, there is no room for complacency.
First of all, the vaccination is not 100 per cent secure, and there are and will be people who, although fully vaccinated, can still be infected.
Secondly, the virus mutates and we have all heard that, for example, the delta variant, apart from being more contagious, is also more resistant to the vaccine.
The hope that the virus would be over in a matter of months, at most two years – as the flu pandemic that followed the end of the First World War did – is starting to be lost.
This is why political leaders, including our own Prime Minister, need to be careful in the message they give to their peoples.