Doom and gloom have dominated headlines worldwide for what feels like an eternity, and that’s very understandable. The planet is, after all, dealing with a widespread pandemic that has literally changed everything about everyone’s lives overnight. But even in the darkest moments, there’s always a bright side.
Back in Malta, most people are currently entering their third week of what has practically been an all-but-official lockdown, with thousands of shops closing, all schools shutting their doors, and typically busy hubs ending up deserted. There’s no doubt it; this is a shitty situation to be in, and everyone will definitely the effects for months to come.
And yet, even now, there’s still a couple of weirdly good things to have come out of this dreadful, dreadful time.
1. A lot of businesses have realised that yes, that meeting really could’ve just been an e-mail
You’ve probably already seen a meme or two about this circulating, but if this isn’t 2020’s mood, I’m not quite sure what is.
This situation has made a lot of Maltese businesses realise quite a lot of things about the way they run day-t0-day processes, but if there’s one thing we all seem to have collectively learnt, it’s that maybe we don’t need that many meetings.
With this has come the dawn of intensified remote working procedures, newfound focus on e-commerce and the absolute need to solve problems quicker than ever before.
You say decreased face-to-face interaction, I say increased efficiency.
2. We finally got McDonald’s Delivery
I don’t know about you, but one of the first things that still used to blow my mind whenever I go abroad is the ability (and absolute ease) of ordering the world-famous fast food goods straight to my door. And yes, I probably should’ve been eating at more local eateries while abroad. Don’t judge me.
So if there’s one thing that’s really helping me get through this with a smile on my face besides all my loved ones, it’s the prospect of getting a box of 20 McDonald’s chicken nuggets delivered straight to my door.
Future, Malta has finally arrived.
3. The island’s older generation is finally embracing technology
Sure, it’s hella fun to call someone a boomer for not getting the latest, dankest meme or not knowing how to turn on Bluetooth on their decade-old phone, but this is about way more than just that.
Care homes are installing Skype, grandparents are getting on FaceTime and Facebook Video Calls, and parents all around the nation are finally understanding the process of ordering online… whether that’s to top up on house supplies or to buy a new bikini “for when it gets better soon enough”.
Now please stop thinking about your parents in a bikini and let’s move on.
4. We can finally wave that Netflix FOMO goodbye
Remember when you used to walk into the office on a Monday morning and everyone would be talking about that series you haven’t watched yet? Me neither.
With just enough extra time on my hands, I’ve finally had the opportunity to watch a bunch of series and films that I’ve been putting off for weeks, months, and sometimes even years (sorry Godfather, I just never had the time!).
And with a whole lot of great shows coming out on a regular basis (seriously, why haven’t you watched Tiger King yet?), there’s plenty to go around for everyone.
Of course, that’s not to say that you should plonk down on your sofa and not move, but it’s good to know you don’t have to feel guilty about wanting to stay in to watch an episode or two. Hell, you’re now a hero for doing that!
5. Neighbours have suddenly become best friends again
Whether it’s the sense that you’re all going through this together in an isolated-community-during-a-zombie-apocalypse feeling or because the whole street organises regular rooftop parties to keep everyone’s spirits up, this period has led to a lot of unlikely but great connections made among people who have suddenly gotten even closer to each other.
Maybe it’s because you always had a different work shift to your neighbours’ or because you never really had the opportunity to just sit on the roof and finally talk. Whatever it is, some of the island’s tightest bonds are suddenly forming among strangers who were just metres apart.
6. We all got to appreciate what our nannas were talking about when they said, “back in my day, it all used to be much quieter and cleaner”
A deserted Sliema, a carless Msida and a quiet Valletta.
Sure, many businesses will soon suffer the brunt of a post-COVID world, but if this opportunity has taught us anything, it’s that everything can be much better if balance is introduced into the equation.
We can all celebrate Malta’s air being finally decently breathable and what life with no traffic would look like, but unless we take this as a learning opportunity moving forward, we’re just going to revert back to “kemm konna aħjar meta konna agħar.”
Besides, we’ve now technically learnt what the best solution to climate change is; stay indoors for, like, two weeks a month.
7. The tight-knit Maltese family is back
A fast-paced lifestyle leaves very little room for even some of our closest loved ones, but COVID-19 sure knew how to pull the handbrake up on it all.
As families all around the island have started (technically being forced) to spend more time indoors together, old bonds have been restored and new ones have been reinvigorated.
What was once an essential aspect of Maltese society had slowly taken a backseat with everything happen at the same time. Now, we finally found the time to disconnect withe everything and reconnect with the people who started it all.
8. “Malta ħanina” has never been more valid
The islands have long prided themselves over their Biblical reputation of being kindhearted, but it took something this massive and this serious for Malta’s true nature to shine bright once more.
Beyond businesses, Maltese citizens are doing their part be it building thousands of free face shields for the island’s healthcare workers to delivering dozens of pizzas to the heroes on our frontlines.
It’s a tough time, but it gets better when you remember you’re not alone.
9. Meanwhile, “kulħadd jagħmel li jrid” is finally being properly challenged
The one thing you don’t want in a serious situation like this is complacency.
Long regarded as just that (must be the Mediterranean blood), Maltese people had an added obstacle to overcome… and it looks like we really stood up to be counted when it mattered.
Most people have followed the new, albeit at times strict guidelines we’ve all been subjected to in the last weeks, and anyone who was spotted flouting the rules was fined. When that didn’t work, the fines were doubled and even tripled as the need arose.
Cooperation is key at a time like this, but so is discipline. And maybe, just maybe, a global pandemic is just what Malta needed to get a shock to its system.
BONUS: Every country on the planet is currently being put through a tough test… and Malta’s not doing too shabby
This was always going to be a challenging time for every nation, but tiny Malta has really stepped up in the last couple of weeks.
We’re one of the countries with the highest test swabs per million people.
We were among the first countries to not shy away from strict measures like closing all schools and eventually all non-essential shops.
We kept stocking up on medical supplies and vital equipment, to the point that we have hundreds of beds and over 100 ventilators currently just sitting there, waiting for a worst-case scenario that hasn’t even remotely happened four weeks into our first confirmed case.
And, most importantly, we have a massive and dedicated healthcare workforce that has managed to keep every single confirmed COVID-19 case in good health, most of whom are even resting and steadily recovering in the comfort of their own homes. Meanwhile, the country’s only handful of cases to exhibit complications are currently receiving dedicated treatment and are reportedly all in stable conditions. Four weeks in, as thousands die beyond our shores every couple of hours, not one single person has died from COVID-19 in Malta.
Everyone is currently (and rightly so) focused on their own country’s issues, but if anyone had to take time to stop and look at Malta, I think they’ll find our situation quite enviable. And that’s always a great contextual reminder for any community currently going through tough times.
Featured Image Photos, Left by Matthew Chircop, Right by Bernard Polidano