No post published by the Nationalist Party’s official Facebook under Bernard Grech’s leadership has gained more traction than its post explaining its new stance against upcoming COVID-19 vaccine rules.
As of the time of writing, the post has been shared 148 times, which means it has overtaken the PN’s previously most popular post under Grech’s tenure, a March 2021 post about a fundraising marathon that was shared 142 times.
Several people, including many PL supporters, praised the PN for taking this stance, although some accused the party of being “populist”.
Yesterday, the PN urged the government to scrap the measures it plans to introduce on 17th January, which will limit entry to bars, restaurants, gyms and other establishments to adequately vaccinated people.
From that date, vaccine certificates will only be valid for people who completed the original vaccination cycle within the past three months or who received the booster shot within the past nine months.
“Given that two-thirds of the country have already taken the booster while the less virulent Omicron has become the dominant strain in Malta, the PN believes the measures no longer strike the right balance between public health and people’s freedoms,” the PN’s statement reads.
“While PN fully supports the health advice to take the vaccine and the booster for both personal and public safety reasons, the party also believes in the rights of people to take their own decision, especially in the changing context of the pandemic.”
“Those who are sceptical of the booster are more likely to be convinced by medical advice from a trusted doctor than by being checkmated by the government. PN is confident that given the right information, people will be responsible in their choices and attitudes, while being more respectful towards others, especially those who are vulnerable.”
The Labour Party criticised Grech for flip-flopping, noting that he had endorsed the vaccine rules when questioned by Lovin Malta at a recent press conference.
“Like an oscillating pendulum, he is playing a populist game instead of focusing on urging everyone to get boosted as the country’s top doctors and professors are doing,” the PL said.
“The PL urges the government and the health authorities to keep up the dialogue with social partners and address genuine issues when necessary. They should also continue spearheading the vaccination campaign so that we can continue recovering from the effects of the pandemic; the more people get vaccinated, the more we can attack the virus and reduce the restrictions.”
“The government has always shown it was never in favour of excess restrictions and there is no doubt that, even now, it is urging everyone to get vaccinated because the vaccine moved us closer to the normality and the booster will move us even closer.”
Asked why the PN changed its stance, a spokesperson told Lovin Malta that Bernard Grech and the PN had listened to the pleas of an increasing number of people who were being unfairly trapped by a system characterized by lack of transparency and poor communication.
These included people who did not receive their booster appointment in time, people who got infected wth COVID-19 or were in quarantine and could not get their booster in time for 17th January, those with genuine reasons not to get the booster and were being ignored by authorities, and employers who are already finding it impossible to operate.
“The PN also believes that the government should invest more in communication campaigns to persuade people rather than force them, but instead Robert Abela was wasting money on partisan billboards and Chris Fearne was wasting money on irregular contracts for his campaign manager,” they said.
Health Minister Chris Fearne is set to address a press conference this afternoon, with Times of Malta quoting sources as saying he will grant a six-week exemption from the rules to people who recently tested positive for COVID-19 and aren’t yet eligible for the booster.
Should the vaccine rules be scrapped?