Discomfort aside, 2020 has shown us it’s actually possible to wear a face mask and talk. We’ve seen it happen multiple times, from random people in the street and waiters at restaurants to a number of world leaders. But not, it seems, Malta’s Prime Minister.
Much has been said of Robert Abela’s public appearances during the global COVID-19 pandemic and the example he sets to us mere mortal citizens, but amidst the blind hate and the even blinder love towards the man lies one simple, weird fact.
Our Prime Minister can’t seem to speak or appear in public while wearing a face mask… unless he’s abroad, that is.
For the second time this year, Abela was last week photographed, filmed and even interviewed in Brussels as he met other EU leaders in what is clearly becoming another, even more intense wave of COVID-19 infections. And of course, a swanky facemask bearing the Maltese flag topped his entire outfit off… as it should, after all.
While it’s apparently been very hard for him to be able to convey a message (and an important example) to a Maltese audience while wearing a mask, Abela has had no issue with doing it in Brussels. Maybe it’s because it gets a bit nippier up north. Or maybe it’s because he can’t actually choose to do otherwise.
Whatever the case, days later, he was back in Malta and back to being close to impossible to catch wearing a face mask.
We’ve been here before in July, of course, but it somehow stings just that little bit more another three COVID-full months later.
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With Malta’s infamous relaxed attitude and lack of discipline coming back to bite us in the ass in the last weeks, Robert Abela is perfectly poised to offer the nation the best example ever… something his peers are doing way better.
No matter what you make of the man or even his whole government at large, Abela has had the odds monumentally stacked up against him since Day One.
Inheriting a political party implicated in questionable scandals and heinous assassination plots, Malta’s young prime minister already had enough of an uphill struggle before a highly infectious and potentially deadly virus started spreading across the planet.
But what that should translate into is an opportunity to grow even further, and not the direct opposite.
Mostly considerd by people from both sides of the aisle as exemplary figures to follow this year, Health Minister Chris Fearne and Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci have clearly taken an active decision to practice what they preach, rarely being seen or heard speaking without a face mask as of late.
Just last week, as Malta announced new restrictive measures – including, ironically, the obligation to wear masks more frequently and in even more places – Fearne and Gauci did not take off their masks for one second during an hour-long press conference… even if it meant they had to address the nation.
Meanwhile, almost too poetically, both of them flanked Malta’s Prime Minister, who throughout the whole thing did not wear his own mask. While telling everyone they should.
Moments after the press conference ended, Abela changed his Facebook profile picture to one where he’s actually wearing a face mask. Was it a good example to set? Absolutely. Was it enough? Absolutely not.
It’s not like this is a big ask either; countless world leaders have managed to harness the incredible superpower of speaking about a global pandemic while wearing a mask.
From former US Vice President and current presidential candidate Joe Biden to Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, men in suits and powerful positions have somehow succeeded in putting a piece of cloth in front of their mouth and convey a message to their audience without losing any of their power, reputation or masculinity.
Heck, Conte even managed to do it just this weekend with a standard-issue disposable mask, let alone a fabulous and way more comforable customised one!
At this rate, the only other world leader who’s been photographed and filmed maskless as often as Prime Minister Abela is probably US President Donald Trump… and I don’t know about you, but that’s not really something I’d be particularly proud of.
Every single day this week, Malta has set a new bleak national COVID-19 record.
At its worst, and similarly to most countries around the world, the first wave of the virus kind of took Malta by surprise last March, with 352 active cases building up over the first month and a half. And boy was that shocking, with people rushing to stock up at supermarkets and the government being incredibly quick to shut everything down.
Fast forward to October, and there have been 893 cases in the last seven days alone. Never mind hitting 352 active cases again; the country currently has 1,450 infected people… that we know of.
Now more than ever, whether or not you believe the island should add restrictions to curb the spread of the virus or brace itself to continue living ‘normally’ but attempt to protect its vunlerable as much as possible, Robert Abela has an important decision to make.
He either uses his powerful and vital role as Prime Minister to show the country how it’s done, or uses his powerful and vital role as Prime Minister to indirectly prove to everyone that, as always, the mentality of mhux xorta will always reign supreme in Malta.
But before he takes that all-important decision, he’s going to have to find a way to get his Belgian superpower working on the island.
What do you make of this?
Featured Image Background Photo by Amio Cajander