Editorial: Watch and learn

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 April, 2021 at 3:18 pm by Andre Camilleri

As we may lead the vaccine race across Europe, we have seen outrageous footage of private parties emerging across social media in these last weeks. Yes, we are all tired; yes, we are all seeking and longing for a sense of connection with our friends and family, but now isn’t the time to celebrate – irrespective of the occasion.

One can readily see mass events being advertised online for the summer months on the islands, marketed chiefly to foreign markets. It comes as welcome news; as for now, the Minister for Tourism, Clayton Bartolo has not given these his seal of approval. For now, it is the time to err with caution and reflect upon last year and the infamous hotel pool party, that many people feel sparked a new wave of cases. We must strike a balance as we edge forward and approach herd immunity, with no promises of a Covid-free holiday to Malta or talk of waves only appearing in the sea.

Elsewhere in the world, mass events are being trialled as experiments. Trial events in the coming months will also explore how ventilation and testing before and after could help crowds return. It’s imperative that we keep a close eye on our neighbours to see how such routes back to normality pan out.

The UK is holding its first pilot trial event tomorrow and the event will be a comedy night in Liverpool, where audience members will be tested for Covid before and after the show. The University of Liverpool’s Professor Iain Buchan, who is helping to run the city’s trials, said taking part would involve giving consent when booking a ticket to the event, receiving text messages about Covid safety, minimising contacts before the event and getting tested as close to the event as possible.

Prof. Buchan added that people would be told not to attend if they develop any symptoms while the events would also be held in well-ventilated places. After the event, people would be advised to minimise their contacts and get another test five days later, for the purposes of research, he said. Further pilot studies include the FA Cup Final, as the pilots will last until mid-May. Interestingly, some of the listed events will not be trialling vaccination certification. UK Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston, described the trials as a “learning experience”, saying no decisions had yet been made on processes or vaccination certificates.

Perhaps it’s time to think about what’s next for us here on the Maltese islands. We must learn lessons from last year’s infamous pool party, which at the time was within the law.  What exactly will our new norm be? Do we need to be vaccinated to enter mass events, evidence of immunity or a recent negative test? It’s no good if Ian Borg is pushing forward for his new stadium at Ta Qali, but none of us knows how we can enter.

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