Prime Minister Robert Abela on Tuesday appeared to downplay the current spike in COVID-19 cases, saying this was due to the high number of tests, while pointing out that no serious cases were being diagnosed.
“Our dedicated hospital wards for COVID-19 patients are empty as the new cases are mild,” Abela told journalists.
The prime minister was speaking at the end of a cabinet meeting held at the Chamber of Commerce in Valletta.
His comments were made soon after the health authorities announced that 29 new cases were detected in the past 24 hours bringing the number of active cases to a high of 440.
Earlier on Tuesday, Slovenia and Greece announced that all visitors from Maltawould have to undergo a 14-day quarantine, while Italy is mulling whether to introduce mandatory testing for all people arriving from Malta.
Replying to questions from the press, the prime minister insisted there was no cause for alarm despite the spike.
He reiterated that the government had put the people’s health first by cancelling mass events which, he said, would have left €25 million in the country’s coffers.
Abela also pointed out that the number of tests being carried out in Malta is three times higher than the European average and hence there would be a higher probability of people getting diagnosed.
“We will keep increasing the number of tests and we will consider further measures to get a realistic picture of the situation,” he noted.
“For some reason the overwhelming majority of cases we have are very mild, which is a different reality from other countries, possibly due to the fact that we have a strong healthcare system,” Abela added.
Asked on the conditions of work of the “front-liners”, the prime minster said that soon after the matter had been raised by Times of Malta, he visited one of the centres to look into the matter.
“One of the complaints was about the hot conditions which the workers have to endure due to their protective gear,” he said.
While admitting that the heat was unbearable he said he had given orders to address issues related to late payments and that all protective personal equipment would be made available. “All resources will be made available to them,” Abela insisted.
The prime minister would not commit himself when asked if the government would extend the wage supplement or reduce VAT rates on certain services but pointed out that measures would be taken to safeguard jobs.
Asked if schools would remain closed should the situation persist or get worse, the prime minister hinted this would be a last resort. “It is crucial not to disrupt the educational development of our children as this would result in a catastrophe in this sector,” he remarked.
He said the government would take all necessary decisions in line with the recommendations of the Superintendent of Public Health.