Apocalyptic days

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We are back to those terrible days of February and March when we would listen to the daily update at noon, when the streets became deserted and when we took to the balconies to clap our appreciation of the frontliners and hang the flag of Malta as a sign of defiance to the virus.

Except that this time there is no clapping and the flags are there because they have remained there all this time. Otherwise there is a generalised sense of doom, accepted with resignation, a sense we are losing the battle against Covid.

As the numbers spike, we try and look ahead and all we can see is the spike getting higher, the deaths increasing and now the hospital running out of space and resources.

Many blame the government for its inaction,  its ostrich-like resistance to anything that spells going back to the Spring restrictions when even at that time it opposed all talk of a lockdown.

At that time, with all these qualifications, we brought the pandemic down and gloried we were the best in Europe. Then we rested on our laurels, opened up the airport and allowed mass events.

The rest is history. The numbers now tell us the spread of the virus is no longer coming from abroad but to a large extent from families. The virus is now firmly embedded in society. The virus is now targeting the younger generations.

Those who blame the government (specifically the prime minister) are of course very right. But alongside we must point our accusatory fingers at those who still refuse to wear a mask, those who refuse to practise social distancing and all those who disregard the impact of their behaviour on the elderly and the vulnerable, who may after all be their relatives.

Much the same has been happening in other countries. But the rate of the spread of the virus in these countries is proportionally much less than in Malta. And we also note that these countries are by and large reacting and introducing new restrictions. Whereas here all we have so far is a generic admission by the prime minister that there must be better enforcement.

It is very clear this is not enough. The people, at least the saner parts of the people, are reacting in their own way. The government opens up the schools, the parents keep their children at home. But there is a limit how much can the people do in the absence of action by the government.

It is also clear the pandemic will lead to huge damage to the economy, to businesses, to jobs. While we read, as in this issue that the financial services sector has been relatively not impacted by the pandemic (the sector has other issues facing it, from the coming Moneyval judgement to so many stories on the world media regarding corruption in Malta), other sectors are being heavily impacted.

The government has offered such help as it could but time and finances are running out. Hopefully the coming Budget Speech will inform us of government plans in this direction. This is a very delicate phase in which some sectors do well and others less so. We are not calling for the mercy killing of the weaker sectors but at least for the encouragement of the sectors which may grow such as the digital sector and working from home.

Above all there must be solidarity between all those who live in Malta with no exceptions based on race and colour. This is the worst time to introduce differences.