Covid19 Malta Bulletin – Thursday 19th March 2020

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Updated 12:51

“You are in good hands, and our healthcare system is one of the best. Be strong.” This was the key message delivered by President George Vella in to patients who have been infected with the virus as well as to their relatives.

In a televised address, Vella, himself a doctor by profession, expressed his appreciation for the sterling work being carried out by healthcare professionals.

George Vella appealed to the general public to follow the directives being issued, which will ultimately benefit all. “If we collaborate, we will overcome this chapter soon”.  In his message, beyond expressing his solidarity, the President appealed for collective responsibility, and urged people to support vulnerable persons, in particular the elderly.

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Update 12:05

In her daily briefing, Health Superintendent Prof Gauci explained that yesterday more than 300 swabs were taken, resulting in five positive cases.

There are now 53 cases.

In total 1,183 swabs were taken so far.

785 other swabs were taken at Mater Dei, all resulting negative.

Four of the new cases related to Maltese people, two of which were in contact with previously-identified positive patients. In one particular case, concerning a 56 year old woman, is now part of a cluster of six persons all connected to an original patient.

Another man, 64, is also a relative to a previously-positive patient who had traveled to the UK.

The foreigner, a Spaniard, works in Malta, had traveled to Madrid.This person went to work for a few hours on 10th March, prior to experiencing the first symptoms. A risk assessment was carried out and further risks to his colleagues seem to be excluded.

The two other cases concern a 55 year old who traveled to Brussels and a 29 year old who traveled to the UK. Both had observed the authorities’ directions to self-quarantined on return.

So far no patient has required any particular treating beyond control of the symptoms. However, Prof Gauci explained, “the fact that only five cases were announced, does not necessarily mean that the situation is getting better”. She therefore appealed again for people to stay inside, despite the fact that today is a holiday.

 

 

 

 

These measures are not simply enough – Delia.

PN Leader Adrian Delia insisted that the measures announced yesterday are simply not enough. A tax deferral makes no sense at this stage, since businesses have practically have no income, and therefore little tax to pay. Most likely, some of the affected business won’t be around any longer when the tax payment is due.

The Opposition Leader highlighted the irony that while Government had no qualms guaranteeing the massive loan, exceeding 300 million to Electrogas, it is only prepared to cover businesses for 20% of their loan requirements.

Delia also criticised investment in the health sector which he described as a pittance. In 2020, Government will be paying Vitals over 70 million euro for giving nothing back to the country. At the same time, Government will spend only 35 million euro on health at this crucial time.

The PN welcomed the fact that 16 million euro are allocated to families in need, but this will not be enough.

With regards to employment, Government is covering just two days to a maximum salary of 800 euro – this is equivalent to a mere 320 euro. The PN had proposed that Government should cover 50% of salaries. Delia quoted reactions by the constituted bodies which emphasised that the announced measures will not avoid significant unemployment.

With regard to the three month moratorium on loans, this will not solve the problem. The PN insisting for a total six months to allow them to recover. This period should commence once the crisis is over.

Adrian Delia concluded that it will support any Government decision to increase expenditure at this point in time which is a critical juncture for the future of our businesses and employment.

Opposition MP Claudio Grech described Government’s actions yesterday as tantamount to a Government which has given up on employment. Grech said that of the 1.8 billion euro package, only 175 million euro will be really ending up in the pockets of businesses and our families. Claudio Grech said that Government is out of touch with the realities of our businesses.

The Opposition spokesperson for Social Policy explained that if Government is paying two-fifths of 800 euro, it is only covering an amount which is equivalent to an unemployment benefit. “This is unacceptable for the Nationalist Party”.

MP Mario De Marco said that Government is failing to see that these are exceptional times needing exceptional measures. “This is a do or die situation for businesses and for thousands of jobs”. Governments abroad insisted that jobs would not be lost, while in Malta, the Labour Government was practically telling businesses to shed jobs.

PN’s spokesperson for Finance explained that when hotels have no tourists and no revenues, covering 2/5ths of an 800 euro, when the average wage in tourism is 1,500 euro, this assistance will not safeguard employment.

 

Update 11:12

 

Press Conference Partit Nazzjonalista

 

Update 10:59

“Other countries have a war budget, Malta’s is a mini-budget”.

This is the harsh reaction of the Malta Chamber of SMEs to the incentives launched yesterday by Government.

The Chamber insisted that other countries have prioritized to ‘keep business in business and workers in jobs’. In Malta, the government seems to have thrown in the towel and is shortsightedly catering more for unemployment than for helping businesses in keep their employees on. The harm of having so many thousands of people in unemployment will cost so much more in long-term socio and economic damage and benefits that will need to be paid, than the subsidies that are necessary now will.

Update 10:56

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia will be addressing a Press Conference shortly, with Health while Prof Gauci’s briefing should start at Noon.

Update 10:21

Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci has appealed for people to avoid congretating and if possible stay inside today, even though it is a public holiday and the weather this morning is fine. Speaking on a local radio station, Gauci insisted that social distancing will slow down the spreading of the virus within the community.

 

 

Health and the economy juggled for attention on the news cycle on Wednesday, with the former getting the headlines during the morning, and the latter sparking debate late in the evening.

During the day, ten new Covid-positive cases were confirmed, including for the first time an elderly Maltese man, aged 70. The elder had not travelled abroad.

There are now 48 cases of coronavirus in Malta. Health Superintendent Prof Gauci explained that while the majority remain travel-related, and that a number of locally-transmitted cases remained linked to the imported cases, it appears that a few cases have been transmitted in the community.

Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that Government has prepared a 1.8 billion euro package to support the economy, business and families. Government’s priority is that no jobs were lost but if people lost their employment they would be given all support to find alternative employment. This is equivalent to just under 13% of GDP. Details of these measures are available in this summary prepared by CI Consulta.

These measures were late at night  dismissed by the Chamber of Commerce as “falling short” of expectations, noting that “employees will be the biggest loser from the support package announced this evening.” Chamber had expected significant salary support but remarked that Government was only covering a mere 20% of the employee’s salary at the level of the minimum wage.

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