Covid19 Malta Bulletin – Friday 20th March 2020

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Update 12:03

Prof Charmaine Gauci has announced the first case identified in Gozo amongst 11 new cases. Malta now has 64 cases of coronavirus-positive patients. Prof Gauci also said that one of the cases concerns a 61-year-old, who, for the first time, is presenting complications related to pneumonia.

The patient from Gozo, aged 69, concerns a man who has not traveled abroad. It is likely that he contracted the virus after attending a meeting during which a number of people attended. This case therefore appears to reflect community transmission on the sister island.

Gauci insisted with her appeal for people to avoid unnecessary gatherings.

A total of 2,236 swabs were taken, 847 of which taken at Mater Dei.

Update 10:45

PN Press conference

PN Deputy Leader David Agius called for a reduction in utility bills now that the international price of oil has gone down. He said that measures announced by Government will lead to unemployment. He re-iterated the Opposition’s proposals that 50% of salaries in affected businesses should be covered while quarantined leave should be paid in full.

Edwin Vassallo noted that while most of businesses have come to a complete halt, they still need to pay rent, maintain storage facilities, pay utility bills and so forth. These problems are exacerbated for micro businesses.

Vassallo urged Government to clarify which businesses are eligible as many retailers expressed concern about whether they had access to funds to pay their employees. The PN Spokesperson on SME insisted that Government should ensure that businesses are supported throughout this crisis so that they can stimulate the economy once the situation gets better. He called on the authorities to suspend rents as well as the significant licences that shop owners and small businesses are required to pay, to ensure that no businesses are lost.

PN MP Ivan Bartolo recalled that in 2009, during the international financial and economic crisis, businesses had to face a tough challenges and were strongly supported by Government to survive. He added that despite 1.8 billion euro sounding as a significant package, this mostly consisted of deferred tax and loan guarantees which do not amount to any tangible support to keep business afloat. These measures show a Government which is detached from reality – with businesses barely having enough cash to go through the month.

Update 10:32

Gozitan business reacts

The Gozo Business Chamber has joined the chorus of constituted bodies latching out at Government’s economic intervention measures, describing them as inadeguate. The Chamber notes that of the full set of measures, only 200 million euro will actually reach businesses. What businesses require, the Chamber insisted, is bridging on loan repayments and subsidies on interest rates.

The GBC urges Government to revised utility bills downwards considering that the price of oil and gas have gone down significantly in the past month.

It also appeals for a specific economic package for Gozitan businesses, noting that the impact on businesses on the sister island are suffering a bigger impact.

Update 9:01

No decision yet on exams

Times of Malta reports that Malta’s education authorities have not yet taken a definite decision regarding Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations due in April. The paper adds that University, Matsec and MCAST will put forward their proposals on the matter next week.

Update 8:55

“You should be ashamed of yourself ” – Chamber of Pharmacists

In a strongly worded statement on Facebook, the Chamber of Pharmacists referred to imagery making rounds of social media of social gatherings taking place yesterday. “You should be ashamed of yourselves”, argued the Chamber, reminding readers that while pharmacists were struggling to ensure continuity of service, others were blatantly regarding the authorities’ appeal to stay inside.

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Yesterday’s public holiday in Malta has in no way slowed down the Covid19-related news cycle, with back-to-back developments particularly throughout the morning and early afternoon.

Malta now has 53 patients who tested positive to the virus, with five being added to the list yesterday. Despite the relatively small increase compared to the previous days, Prof Gauci, who by know has become a familiar face in most Maltese households, insisted that this by now means implies that the worst has passed.

National carrier Air Malta has set up a special schedule for individuals to return to their home country and ensure the required connectivity for critical medical cases. The new schedule covers London, Vienna, Frankfurt, Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam.

The limited increase in cases made sure that debate on traditional and social media remained focused on the economic impact of the crisis. The Opposition, in chorus with a number of constituted bodies, has lambasted the economic support package announced the day before by Government, describing it as too little and too weak in the context of what is happening around us. Perhaps the most striking review of these initiatives was given by the Chamber of SMEs which called the package “a mini-budget, when the country effectively needs a war-budget”.

In a televised address to the nation, President of the Republic George Vella appealed for calm, addressing in particular those who have been infected and their families, reminding them that “they are in good hands”.

While most social media users described uncharacteristically quiet streets, a few images alleging congregation of people have also made the rounds.

 

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