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MaltaToday 17 March 2021 MIDWEEK

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2 maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 17 MARCH 2021 NEWS COVID-19 313 new cases of COVID-19 were registered on Tues- day, the health ministry has said. 126,277 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered until Monday. Of which 40,681 were second doses. Total recoveries stand at 23,591, while total cases registered stand at 27,061. There are currently 3,113 active COVID-19 cases. Three persons died in the 24 hours leading up to noon on Tuesday. Two women aged 70 and one man aged 73. All of whom died at Mater Dei Hospital. The total number of deaths is 357. 4,463 swab tests were carried out in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of swabs to 763,393. KARL AZZOPARDI EUROPEAN Medicines Author- ity head Emer Cooke has insisted there is no indication that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots. On Monday, Spain, France and Italy joined the growing list of EU countries that halted use of the Astrazeneca vaccine against COVID-19 amid concerns of blood-clotting among those who received the jab. The issue first arose when Aus- tria recorded two patients who developed blood clots after tak- ing the vaccine. The particular batch had also been used in Mal- ta. EMA had recommended the Astrazeneca vaccination pro- gramme continue as planned, with the Maltese health author- ities saying they were following the situation closely and mon- itoring patients who have re- ceived the vaccine from the par- ticular consignment. Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, EMA Executive Di- rector Emer Cooke said she is "fimrly convinced" the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks. AstraZeneca has also said a re- view of 17 million people who received doses in Europe found there were 37 cases of people who had developed blood clots. The EMA said the number of blood clots reported in vaccinat- ed people is no higher than that of the general population. "While the investigation is ongoing, currently, we are still firmly convinced that the bene- fits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risks of hospitali- sation and death, outweigh the risks," Cooke said. Results from the EMA's inves- tigation are due to be released on Thursday. European Medicines Authority says there is 'no indication' AstraZeneca causes blood clots Three deaths and 313 new cases NICOLE MEILAK NATIONALIST MP and for- mer Opposition leader Adrian Delia has warned government that he will challenge an amend- ment to the Interpretation Act in the Constitutional Court if it is passed in parliament. Delia charged that a govern- ment bid to change the In- terpretation Act, an act con- cerning the language in which laws in Malta are interpreted, serves as a loophole to change the Constitution, which would have otherwise needed a two- thirds majority before any changes can be made. The bill amending the Inter- pretation Act, currently in its second reading in parliament, will allow administrative fines issued by a regulatory entity to be interpreted as a crimi- nal punishment. Government moved the Bill after failing to obtain a two-thirds approval for a direct amendment of the Constitution. "The same entity issuing the fine cannot also judge whether the crime was committed," De- lia argued in the House. "Out of loyalty to the Constitution, I will be the first to go and see that the Court rules the Act to be unconstitutional." The amendment will apply to fines issued by the Malta Gam- ing Authority, Planning Au- thority, or the Financial Intel- ligence Analysis Unit, among others. "These entities will be able to treat you like criminals, even though no court ever ruled that you are one. It cas- tigates every person who gov- ernment thinks should pay for their behaviour," Delia contin- ued. Nationalist MP Joseph El- lis expressed similar concerns on the Bill, and said that with recent revelations of former MGA chief Heathcliff Farrugia colluding with Daphne murder suspect Yorgen Fenech to pre- vent money-laundering fines against Tuma Gaming, such reforms should be viewed sus- piciously. "How can you have faith in the institutions when they work in this way, with no respect to the law?" he asked. Ellis said that allowing regu- lators, which already have the power to issue fines running in the millions, without any sort of criminal procedure before- hand, could make room for se- rious abuse. On the government side, La- bour MP Glenn Bedingfield said that no MP should get to decide whether the law is un- constitutional or not. "We al- ways respected the Constitu- tion – these amendments are there to strengthen authorities in the fight against corruption and money-laundering. Do you want us to do nothing?" he told MPs. He questioned the Bill's crit- ics' motives, arguing that in- stitutions must have a right to impose administrative fines. Delia vows to take Interpretation Act to Constitutional Court if Bill is passed Adrian Delia

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