Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne has opened up about key topics in a new interview with Lovin Malta.
From a realistic COVID-19 timeline to the party media debate to his future in politics, Fearne sat down with Lovin Malta CEO Christian Peregin to spell out his thoughts at the beginning of 2021 – and how he believes the Labour Party will win the next general election by another 40,000 votes.
1. Though the island is looking towards May as a potential “return to normality,” Fearne is not under any illusions about getting rid of masks or social distancing immediately.
“I think, looking back, we’ve done a brilliant job. I honestly say this, I think we’ve done a really good job. Every death is a tragedy and I regret every death. It doesn’t mean that we could have prevented those deaths or prevented all of those deaths but every death is a tragedy so history will say but, honestly, I think we’ve done a good job,” he said.
“Now, if you look at what happens in May, we will have drastically less people having serious consequences of the virus, so drastically less people needing admission, a lot less people needing admission to ITU and therefore, yes, we can start to relax… if you want to use the term ‘go back to normal’,” he continued.
“Whether we will still need to wear masks and keep social distancing is a bit early to say. Possibly yes. The virus will still be endemic in the community. So even public gatherings, pool parties… mass meetings maybe.”
2. When it comes to the controversial Vitals hospitals deal, Fearne maintains that there is no evidence of corruption or fraud.
“To my knowledge, I have no evidence of any corruption or fraud. Had I had this evidence I would have passed it on immediately to the competent authorities,” he says strongly.
He went on to defend the choice to bring Steward in to take over from Vitals.
“Steward is a serious company. I’ll tell you. They run about 40 hospitals in America, they run other hospitals outside of Malta. They are a serious company, I’ve visited their hospitals,” he said. “I’m not unhappy to be working with Steward. But yes, there is an NAO report.”
“We were happy for Vitals to be replaced by Steward.”
3. Considering that just around a year ago Fearne was in the running to be Labour Party leader, Fearne made it clear he supported Prime Minister Robert Abela’s choices during the pandemic, though he said he “may have done one or two things differently but on the big things, we’re agreeing.”.
However, he strongly denied any interest in running for party leader again, saying “there’s no vacancy for leadership”.
When asked if he might ever work internationally, possibly with an organisation like the WHO, after leaving Maltese politics, Fearne said: “ever is a long time, so certainly for the next election and probably for the election after that I will be in Maltese politics”.
4. Fearne made it clear that he was very wary of removing party media such as ONE and Net.
“I think it’s very dangerous that you’re trying to muzzle parts of our society from having an active voice,” he said. “I believe in pluralism, I think the more voices we have, the better.”
However, he agreed that it wasn’t acceptable for any companies to not publish their accounts for a decade, like ONE and Net.
“I think it’s not acceptable for anyone, including Lovin Malta, to not publish its accounts,” he continued, saying he was “not informed” about why ONE hadn’t published it’s accounts for so long.
When asked if he was going to do anything about it, Fearne said: “Well, you have a court case, let’s see how that ends.