Health Minister Chris Fearne has played down calls for Malta to introduce more restrictions despite a record spike in COVID-19 cases.
During an interview on Reno Bugeja’s show Jistaqsi, Fearne was asked whether Malta should impose a ‘circuit breaker’, a term that has been used to describe a full lockdown with an expiry date.
However, the minister didn’t seem too keen on this idea at all, counter-arguing that “the vaccine is our circuit breaker”.
“It’s like a game of football, when you have both attackers and defenders,” he explained. “Before we acquired the vaccine, we were only defending but now we’ve started attacking too. The more we attack, the more we can put down our defences.”
Fearne reiterated that the vaccination campaign is already reaping fruit, noting that hospitalisations have declined significantly among fully vaccinated cohorts – namely healthcare workers and over 85s.
Only one COVID-19 patient currently receiving intensive care is over 80 years old.
However, he warned that people could still die from COVID-19 after everyone is inoculated, because the vaccine is ineffective on a small minority of people.
In this vein, he defended the government’s distance to remove social distancing restrictions at elderly care homes.
“We’ve vaccinated them with both doses and we must now wait ten days from the second dose to ensure maximum immunity, but once they’ve been fully vaccinated and we know the vaccine works on over 90% of them, we cannot keep them locked up.”
“We locked them up to protect them, not the rest of society, and now that they’re vaccinated we must open them. They can’t stay locked up forever. We won’t remove quarantine for now because that protects others, not just yourself, but they don’t need to stay behind perspex screens anymore.”
Fearne also defended a recent legal notice which allows restaurants to remain open for an extra hour till midnight, arguing that contact tracing evidence shows restaurants aren’t to blame for COVID-19 cases.
However, he said it was “necessary” to keep bars and każini closed for yet another month, even though he conceded that this extended business ban is “bothering a lot of people”.
Admitting that COVID-19 fatigue is on the rise, Fearne urged everyone to remain responsible for the final stretch.
“I know it’s been a year and that everyone wants to immediately return to life as it was a year ago,” he said. “We’re not far away from there.”
Do you agree with Chris Fearne?