Health Minister Chris Fearne has confirmed the authorities will still advise people to wear face masks after May, the month Prime Minister Robert Abela has forecast will signal a return to “business as usual”.
However, he predicted that the country’s COVID-19 situation would have improved significantly by then because most vulnerable people would have been vaccinated.
“I said from the start of the pandemic that it’s going to change normality,” Fearne said during a Newsbook interview yesterday. “We learned some things that weren’t that important to us before and accelerated certain things. Some things will improve and there’ll be other things we’ll need to be more careful about.”
“For example, our advice will be to continue wearing masks and be responsible after May.”
Fearne defended Abela’s statements that life will return to “business as usual” by May, noting that everyone older than 70 as well as everyone with chronic conditions should have been vaccinated by then.
“Having a virus in and of itself doesn’t necessarily lead to serious consequences… God forbid the world stops every time someone gets a cold. Our concern isn’t the virus but its consequences, which are most serious among people older than 70 and younger people with serious chronic conditions.”
“Our policy is to immunise the vulnerable and the front-liners first so that while the virus will remain in the community, its consequences won’t be severe and therefore life can go on.”
“We’d rather not have any cases of COVID-19 at all though, so we aim to achieve herd immunity by September and vaccinate everyone who wants it by the end of the year.”
Fearne said it’s projected that 60-70% of the population will have to be vaccinated for herd immunity to be reached. He didn’t hazard a prediction of when the authorities will be able to ease restrictions though, saying that “the numbers will tell us”.
“Our decisions are based on science, not on what people write on Facebook or what is happening in other countries,” he added. “We learn from other countries but make decisions based on science.”