Malta’s ‘lockdown’ rules on elderly and other vulnerable people were relaxed after public feedback made it evident that the measures weren’t sustainable, Prime Minister Robert Abela has said.
“This is an unprecedented situation and there aren’t any previous models which can guide us,” Abela said when interviewed on ONE. “I’d be arrogant if I had to say I won’t listen to the people… they’re listening to us and we must listen them too.”
“We don’t want to have people locked up at home, only for everyone to leave and ignore the rules after a week. We want to reduce human contact as much as possible through sustainable measures.”
Last Thursday, Health Minister Chris Fearne said that people older than 65, pregnant women and other vulnerable people won’t be able to leave home unless for medical reasons as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19.
However, the following day, the government clarified that these people will be able to leave the house for other basic necessities, such as to buy groceries and medicinal products, to withdraw money from the bank and, in the case of farmers, to feed their animals.
The Prime Minister denied that this change in tact was the result of a dispute between himself and Fearne, stating that Cabinet had unanimously agreed with the original plan and, later on, the amended one, after listening to public feedback.
“For example, a Gozitan family informed me that their 70-year-old father is bedridden, that they don’t know how to wash him and that he’s washed by someone older than 65. What could they do? Maybe he wouldn’t have died by the coronavirus but he would have died from bed sores?”
“What about farmers older than 65 who need to feed their animals? Should they let their animals die?”
He said the new restrictions are “drastic” anyway, comparable to measures introduced by Spain, which is second behind Italy in terms of coronavirus fatalities.
Abela said the government’s plan to contain the spread of COVID-19 has worked well so far but urged the public not to let the recently reported low number of new cases deceive them into letting their guard down.
“I am pleased to see that we’re on the right path but at the same time I’m worried that people will start letting their guard down,” he said. “The precautionary measures are simple but require discipline. We have three, perhaps more, crucial weeks ahead of us. If people disobey the directives, we’re all going to suffer; if they obey them, we’ll keep going along the right path.”