The Executive Secretary of the San Ġwann local council has said that “all legal protocols” were followed in a lunch organised for the town’s elderly that led to 70 people being quarantined and eight active COVID-19 cases.
The event, San Ġwann Senior Citizens Festive Lunch, was held at the Goldcrest Suite within the Urban Valley Resort and Spa, on the 18th December, and was a council-subsided event led by Vice Mayor Anthony Mifsud Bonnici Giordani.
“All the guidelines stipulated by the healthcare authorities were followed,” Kurt Guillaumier told Lovin Malta. “Every attendee had their temperature checked, we had a list of people attending for contact tracing, with six people per table and all tables two metres apart. The venue was also licensed to operate such an event and had ample hand sanitiser, and the buffet was assisted and slow, with only one table going at a time, leading to some attendees complaining it was taking so long.”
Photos of the event were sent to Lovin Malta by San Ġwann residents, with one person saying: “In San Ġwann there are many upset and terrified residents. I’m one of them as I’m sick and I have vulnerable children.”
Guillaumier explained that the council wanted to provide a “safe environment with all protocols in place” for elderly people who might be suffering from loneliness during the festive season amidst the ongoing pandemic.
Similarly, Shawn Muscat, cluster general manager at the Urban Valley Resort and Spa, told Lovin Malta that the venue had passed multiple MTA spot-checks and was following health guidelines to the dot, noting that the council itself were very strict when preparing the venue for the event.
“From our end, we made sure that all protocols were followed; team members were wearing masks the entire time, the buffet was assisted, people weren’t allowed to walk between tables, we even had extra staff to ensure all went well,” Muscat said.
The event was not a profit-making event, with the aim of giving back to the community and giving lonely elderly people a place to socialise.
“It is very unfortunate that this happened, but it is very hard to pinpoint exactly where these cases came from,” he said. “But all protocols were in check and in line.”
He lamented that COVID-19 spread during the event, but emphasised that elderly people are well within their legal rights to leave their house and attend events.
“Now if you are telling me the elderly should stay in their house, I understand 100% – but everyone has to take responsibility for their actions,” he said. “These people paid to attend that event, and the council made no profit from it.”
“The council is guilty of providing a safe environment for the elderly,” he continued, calling the situation “unfortunate”.
Guillamier pointed out that during the peak of the lockdown, the San Ġwann council was active in keeping its residents engaged, organised discos from balconies as well as events for people to see Santa Claus from balconies. “This tombola lunch was another law-abiding event.”
“There are people who don’t have much to do with their life, and are unoccupied and wanted to go out once a year – we are very sympathetic to those who are COVID-positive, but if you decide to go out, that’s your responsibility.”
The local council has been rolling out several initiatives to help residents battle COVID-19, Guillamier said.
“We’ve been delivering medicine to the elderly, and are giving 700 sanitary bags to children as well. We’ve sanitised the public spaces, the gardens and even the elderly van we use – and we are about to roll out 7,000 packs of masks to give for free to San Ġwann residents on Monday,” he said.
“We did, and are doing, everything that could possibly be done.”