Last Updated on Thursday, 5 November, 2020 at 3:39 pm by Andre Camilleri
One year has passed since the streets of Valletta were filled with protests, and as a result of standing by some friends in the wrong places, Joseph Muscat had no option but to step down as Prime Minister of Malta.
A year later, we may ask ourselves, if we look a little deeper than the smokescreen of COVID-19, what has really changed?
Yet again, several individuals in positions of high trust and authority have had to suspend themselves due to affiliations, with others in the dark underbelly of Malta’s “wrong” crowd, as the Yorgen Fenech plot took yet another sharp twist. In this same week, a journalist was allegedly bribed to provide “fair and accurate reporting” by a defence lawyer on the very same case.
But there are valuable lessons to be gained here: social affiliations, hard work, an abundance of money and knowing the right people may well and truly get you to the top of society. But the slightest whiff of someone with a tarnished name near yours will push you off a proverbial cliff faster than Fabio Spiteri can complete a lap of Sicily.
As the months pass by, the process of separating the good eggs and the bad ones is slowly unfolding, after all, we all know the problem with eggs is, they all look the same from the outside – it’s only when pressure is applied, they begin to crack. Malta’s is long enduring the effects of another pandemic, one called greed, and it’s one that must be urgently addressed.
As the second wave of Covid-19 jammed hospital wards across Europe within the last week, and countries crept reluctantly towards varying levels of partial lockdown, television schedules were promptly changed to allow ministers to address forlorn nations. Malta is not exempt, having seen its highest daily cases to date, the general mood remains one of apathy.
Declaring a 6pm curfew for the country’s bars and restaurants, the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, called for national unity. “If we all respect these new rules throughout November,” he said, “we will succeed in keeping the epidemiological curve under control. That way we will be able to ease the restrictions and move into the Christmas festivities with greater serenity.”
Addressing from the Elysée, a dour Emmanuel Macron decreed a new national lockdown, lasting until at least 1 December, and warned France the new wave of infections was likely to be “deadlier than the first”.
In Belgium, where Covid is spreading faster than in any other European country, the new Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, hoped “a team of 11 million Belgians” would pull together to follow tighter regulations.
In style and essence, the messages reverberated those delivered in March, when shock and fear led nations to rally round leaders and consent to restrictions unknown outside of wartime. Eight months on, that kind of trust, camaraderie and goodwill is in diminishingly short supply. Europe, once again, sits at the epicentre of the global pandemic, accounting for almost half the world’s infections last week.
A closer look at our neighbours and we can see riots, strikes and protests against forced measures – revolt isn’t a step we haven’t taken as of yet. It’s easy to say with hindsight what we could or should have done. For now, the continuous trade-off between balancing health and economy prevails, and no single European government has nailed managing that one. If the stakes were tellingly high before the first lockdown in March, they may be even higher now.