Initial fear over the COVID-19 pandemic has turned out to be largely unjustified, the president of the Malta Hotels and Tourism Association argued last night.
“When this started, we were told that thousands of people will die in Malta,” Tony Zahra said when interviewed Xtra last night. “What has become of those predictions? I have actually received information from overseas that the common flu has had more of an impact on health systems than COVID-19.”
Zahra was likely referring to a study back in March by Prof. Victor Grech, who helps run the paediatric cardiology services at Mater Dei, which predicted that, in a best-case scenario, around 100,000 people will get infected with the coronavirus and 2,000 will die over the course of 14 weeks.
As it stands, 599 people have got infected so far, out of whom 468 have recovered and six have died.
Claiming there is a ‘Project Fear’ surrounding the virus, the hotel lobbyist urged Malta to reopen its airport in time for summer, warning that a failure to do so would lead to mass unemployment as several businesses in the tourism industry will make their staff redundant.
He questioned why Malta should take a more cautious route than the likes of Italy and Greece, who have started lifting restrictions and plan to open their airports to tourists in the near future.
“We can remain locked down, but everyone knows what the problems will be if we do that. How long can one remain stuck at home for? Life is for living.”
Zahra’s statements were challenged by Malta Medical Association president Martin Balzan and Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses president Paul Pace, both of whom warned that the recent spike in Malta’s new COVID-19 cases was cause for serious concern.
Both lobbyists urged the government to reverse its decision to reopen restaurants, hair salons and other businesses until the situation stabilises.
What do you make of Tony Zahra’s argument?