Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci has called for some COVID-19 measures related to social distancing and hand-washing to stick around for the long term.
Interviewed on Times of Malta today, Gauci was asked about Denmark’s decision to remove all its coronavirus restrictions after vaccinating 70% of its population, a lower percentage than Malta, where the vaccination rate is over 90%.
“We’ve been gradually reducing measures while constantly assessing the situation but there are some measures that will be good to keep, such as hand-washing, which has made a very big impact,” she said,
“We’ve been recommending people to wash their hands for for a while because it can prevent almost half of the infectious diseases we have; we managed to do this throughout the pandemic.”
“Kids have been the best example for us adults, because they wash their hands and wear their masks properly,” she said before posing a particularly moral question to the public.
“We understand that everyone wants to go to normality but what is normality?”
Expanding on this, Gauci said Malta managed to pass through last winter’s influenza season with barely any cases at all, a phenomenon she accredited to COVID-19 restrictions that had been imposed.
“The WHO has been alerting the scientific community about what can happen when you loosen restrictions so let’s take all the necessary precautions because we know influenza is another virus we have lived with through our lives. We have a vaccine so please take it when its available.”
“But it’s important we keep certain things we’ve learned, especially hand-washing and distancing and the importance for people who are sick to stay at home.”
Questioned by Lovin Malta about Gauci’s statement and whether the government has a set definition of ‘normality’, Health Minister Chris Fearne took a coy stance.
“It is clear that COVID-19 will be with us for the long term, which is why we’re now giving vaccine boosters and it could be we keep giving boosters every year.”
“We must be careful but we mustn’t let it paralyse us.”
He said first year medical students are taught about the ‘precautionary principle’, which states that when the situation is clearly, decisions must be taken in favour of public health and against placing people at risk.
“We’re reducing measures step by step and while it’s a bi-directional process, we haven’t yet needed to increase restrictions unlike other countries. We know it’s going to be with us for the long term and that we must learn to live it, but it doesn’t mean we won’t continue saving lives.”
What do you make of Charmaine Gauci’s statement?