Editorial: Restrictions easing, Covid-19 rising

Last Updated on Saturday, 2 April, 2022 at 8:24 am by Andre Camilleri

Prime Minister Robert Abela has agreed to leave it up to people to safeguard their well-being regarding protocols with a welcome response from the business community. The Malta Airport (MIA), The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA), and numerous hoteliers and restaurateurs have welcomed Robert Abela’s promise to lift all remaining Covid-19 measures.

Despite this announcement, Malta has landed itself back at the top of EU countries of concern with increasing daily Covid-19 figures. On Wednesday, 603 new daily cases were reported as figures continue to rise. This isn’t surprising given the mass rallies in the past weeks and huge crowds celebrating Labour’s victory on Sunday. Now, it’s easy to say people may seem comfortable without restrictions, as life has resumed in some capacity. People may no longer fear the virus, especially in combination with the vaccine rollout, yet we must remember we are far from the end of the pandemic.

Moderna Inc. co-founder Noubar Afeyan stated back in January; the pandemic could start moving into an endemic phase in 2022, though countries will need to stay vigilant as the omicron variant spreads,

While some countries slowly begin to consider treating Covid as an endemic disease akin to the flu, World Health Organization officials have said it’s too early to make that call as cases surge.

“2022 may be the year that the pandemic enters an endemic phase, but it really depends on what happens and the decisions that are made across the world,” Afeyan said in a Bloomberg Television interview Friday with Francine Lacqua. Although Omicron is highly transmissible, “on the other hand, it’s having a lesser effect in terms of the seriousness of the disease,” he said

However, WHO acknowledges some countries can judiciously consider easing the rules if they boast high immunity rates, robust health care systems and favourable epidemiological curves.

Omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant, according to studies. However, Omicron spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus. But the U.N. health agency, ever cautious about how a virus still spreading widely might evolve, warned about underestimating Omicron.

“We are concerned that a narrative has taken hold in some countries that because of vaccines — and because of omicron’s high transmissibility and lower severity — preventing transmission is no longer possible and no longer necessary,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Gheybreysus said at a regular WHO briefing on the pandemic, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

His emergencies chief, Dr Michael Ryan, said some countries could justifiably begin easing restrictions but warned about a rush to the exits and advised that countries assess their situations. He cautioned that “political pressure will result in people in some countries opening prematurely, resulting in unnecessary transmission, unnecessary severe disease, and unnecessary death.”. Let’s hope Malta is not one of them.

For now, it is apparent the world remains in the pandemics’ grasp, with various lockdowns emerging again in China this week. However, we are far from the end, and Malta is not exempt. If Abela sticks to his word and removes all restrictions; in that case, it falls on us to be responsible, to care for our elders and vulnerable, care for public-facing workers we encounter daily, and do our best to minimise the ongoing risk.

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