According to a recent European Parliament Eurobarometer survey published last week, people in Malta feel more uncertain, frustrated and fearful over the pandemic than their peers in other EU countries. According to the data, 65 per cent of the people surveyed in Malta said the pandemic had led them to have feelings of uncertainty. This was significantly higher than the EU average of 45 per cent.
Similarly, while the EU average for feelings of fear stood at 22 per cent, in Malta this climbed to 35 per cent. And the ongoing struggles with the pandemic also led to more people in Malta feeling frustrated (41 per cent) than in the rest of Europe (34 per cent).
We must not neglect the fact that the survey was carried out between March and April, a time when the number of new and active cases climbed to record highs. This was also the period when the islands re-entered a semi lockdown. Still, the fact remains that we are the most frustrated nation in Europe, despite having one of the world’s leading vaccination programmes.
Didn’t many of our European counterparts have it worse than us? So, what has caused such fear and frustration amongst us? Was it irresponsible media or Facebook stalwarts such as Gerald Fenech and his daily fear-mongering that thousands of people latched on to? Are we to blame?
Could it be the fact we were led to believe all was so well and so rosy for so long when, in reality, things were spiralling out of control, and things were not being done fast enough? Could it be that in March we felt close to a repetition of the spike in cases that followed last year’s infamous pool party? It was the time when caution was not being exercised as it was believed that the worst was over. But it was not the case.
Is it the fact that we saw ourselves cut off as a small island nation, with no easy way off the rock and nowhere to go? Is it because our population is increasing rapidly, many of us living on top of one another and have no space? Is it the lack of outdoor areas and constant construction and ripping up of trees? Could it be we were afraid of our health system being unable to cope? Covid variants were spreading like wildfire; all of us at some point or another have either had or known someone with the virus. Could It be we felt the impact more than others?
It’s a combination of all the above and more. Ultimately, frustration is nothing new in these islands. In fact, some psychologists have long attributed it to the “island” mentality phenomena. The world is interconnected now more than ever. Malta is very much a part of that world. For too long, we have pretended that the sun rises and sets on Malta and that the rest of the world is just what we see on the news. The pandemic has, hopefully, opened our eyes. When this is all over, we cannot ignore the lessons it has taught us, at the cost of jobs, income, psychological distress, illness and social detachment. Such findings are concerning. Any government ought to pay close attention to such findings and work for immediate resolution.