Prime Minister Robert Abela might’ve been refusing interviews with independent media lately, but he seems to be getting used to speaking to his party’s platform and having his statements unchecked.
Taking to a live ONE interview for a very impassioned 45 minutes, Abela yesterday gave the nation a teaser of some of the latest COVID-19 restrictions to be imminently lifted in Malta. In the process, he also gave us some choice quotes.
No doubt coming under intense scrutiny during his first couple of months as Prime Minister – you know, what with his successor resigning and a global pandemic on the loose – Abela has managed to keep calm and collected in the face of political unrest, an impeding worldwide recession and one of the largest health emergencies this side of the century.
Yesterday, however, Abela took a bit of a stronger stance against people who have been erring on the side of added caution, pointing at everything from what people should be doing right now to where they might actually find a second wave. And in between a couple of hyperbolic statements that no doubt went down a treat with the party faithful, it was one intense ride.
Without further ado, here are some stand-out highlights from Robert Abela’s interview… alongside a quick check with the current statistics.
1. “Today, we are in the best situation we’ve been in since the 7th of March, and tomorrow, we’ll be even better than today.”
After an opening monologue where he reflected on what a “beautiful time” Malta is going through right now, Abela said the islands are currently in the best situation they’ve been since COVID-19 landed on our shores in early March.
Meanwhile, yesterday saw the end of the fourth worst week in three months when one considers the weekly rise in active cases, with the number nearly doubling in the last seven days.
Statistically speaking, every other single week in the last five has been better as far as weekly difference in active cases go, since all those weeks registered a decline in cases instead of a rise (of just over 60%, no less).
As far as the “best day so far” title goes, that honour should probably go to Saturday 9th or Sunday 10th May, when the islands registered 58 active cases, the lowest number in eight out of 11 weeks.
2. “In the last few days, we tripled, increased by three, the number of tests.“
This weekend marked a great record for Malta’s swab tests, with an impressive 1,700 tests being carried out between Friday and Saturday. A further 1,429 tests came in the following day.
Addressing the fact that Malta’s COVID-19 cases have indeed increased in the last two days (they’d actually been on the rise for one straight week), Abela said this was due to the tripling of tests that occurred at the same time.
And while 1,700 is a grand feat that has so far stood as the maximum number of tests Malta’s carried out yet, the island’s healthcare system has been working like a well-oiled machine for quite some time now. In the last week, for example, three out of five days saw more than 1,100 tests being conducted, with nearly 1,300 tests being conducted between Monday and Tuesday.
Even if you had to take an average, in fact, the number still comes up to solidly more than half of 1,700, at 977. Thankfully, it’s been a while since Malta’s test totals were only hitting around 566 (a third of 1,700), and even then, those numbers were as one-off as Saturday’s record announcement.
In the last 24 hours, Malta carried out 1,017 tests… the second smallest figure in the last seven days.
3. “Look around the whole world. In which island, in which state, are there only 90 cases? Nowhere. Nowhere.”
“We’ve always been upfront, transparent and factual with everyone,” the Prime Minister said. “I’m so sorry that there are people from certain sections, or from the media, where fear overcomes reason and there’s some sort of doubt that we’re not moving forward.”
Using Malta’s sub-100 active cases as proof of the island’s success, Abela went on to ask a very simple question with a very simple answer: is there any island, country, or state on the planet which only has 90 cases?
At the time of writing, the Faroe Islands have zero active cases, and have been the first country to restart European football. New Zealand, an island country of five million people, has 45.
Over 70 other island states or small countries also have fewer than 90 active cases, including Libya, Myanmar, Vietnam, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Liechtenstein, Bhutan, Nicaragua, Fiji, Montenegro, and similarly-populated (and fish-shaped) Iceland.
An hour and a half after Abela’s interview, Malta’s active COVID-19 cases went up to 93, with three more being aggregated today, adding two more countries to the above list… which can easily be accessed here and sorted by active cases.
Malta’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been phenomenal and has consitently defied all odds of size or GDP, but as far as being the best in the world on fighting the virus goes, it looks like we actually rank about 82nd.
4. “I heard a lot of things about second wave this and second wave that. Waves are in the sea.”
Much has been said of a potential second wave of infections following the easing of restrictive measures around the world. After all, there is still no cure for the virus, and previous pandemics over the years have shown undeniable proof of how deadly second waves can be.
Abela however reiterated the importance to “not scare people with the Babaw”, and how if anyone wants to look for waves, they’re only going to find them in the sea.
Looking further ahead, Abela said he doesn’t envision having to close establishments again come September. “In September, I see myself cutting the ribbon on even more commercial establishments that I’ll be inaugurating,” he reassured.
Hours after Abela’s interview, WHO Europe director Dr. Hans Kluge – who back in March had praised Malta as “an example to follow” in this whole crisis – said he was “very concerned” of a surge in cases alongside seasonal flu later this year, saying Europe must “prepare for a second deadly wave of the coronavirus” in winter.
“We always thought that health was the driver of economic prosperity – but it’s worse, no health and there’s no economy. This is a lesson that cannot be forgotten.”https://t.co/uk0lC5UtM4
— Paul Nuki (@PaulNuki) May 14, 2020
5. “The best thing people can do right now is go to the sea and enjoy themselves.”
Quickly following up with the need to continue practising social distancing and protect the nation’s vulnerable and elderly, the Prime Minister’s advice was simple: go to the beach. “We’ve always erred on the side of caution,” Abela’s reminded his viewers.
While definitely not illegal and quite frankly a natural solution to Malta’s current heatwave, visiting beaches has proven to be a point of contention for many, with photos of overcrowded beaches and news of police fines handed out to group gatherings coming in on a nearly daily basis.
6. “Comino is COVID safe.”
Stressing on how we need to start working on advertising the islands to tourists “from right now as a country that has defeated COVID”, Abela went on to say that “Malta and Gozo are two islands that are COVID safe… and Comino along with them”.
While most probably just a cheeky addition and a nod to Comino’s only three permanent residents (and thankfully, an undeniable fact), it’s interesting to add that, should one COVID-19 case be confirmed on the 3-kilometre-squared island, it would instantly become the worst hit area on the planet.