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MALTATODAY 21 March 2021

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16 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 21 MARCH 2021 OPINION THE shocking and alarming rise in COVID-19 cases in Mal- ta is a sign of incompetence and mismanagement by the political class in government who have recklessly undone the relentless hard work, dedi- cation and bravery of our med- ical professionals. So, now we are back to square one and the suffering, sadly, will continue. I'll immediately set the re- cord clear and state that the pandemic should not be po- liticised. But it does not mean that political responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in should not be shouldered. The two things are bluntly differ- ent. When the pandemic struck, our country was fortunate enough to have a Superinten- dent of Public Health, selected on merit and on the basis of a proven track record, unlike other appointees elsewhere who are selected simply on their enthusiasm of waving the Labour Party's flag. So competence and expertise were readily on hand if only our Prime Minister would lis- ten. Instead, taking cue from former US President Donald Trump's handbook, Robert Abela preferred to take the popular route, and throwing caution to the wind, prema- turely claimed victory over the pandemic, invited people to enjoy the summer months and topped it out by floating the possibility of an amnesty for people who were fined for breaching social distancing measures. When, inevitably the second wave hit, something that he should have, but did not see coming, he chose again not to listen and instead doubled up his rhetoric, belittling the is- sue and precipitately declaring that the country would be back to "normal" in no time. The forecast dates came and went, whilst the situation worsened. As more highly infectious variants appeared, once again our Prime Minister sent out mixed messages, all the time overlooking the guidance of the experts in the field, whilst falsely claiming to listen to and being guided by the "science" of it all. When the number of new daily cases rose steadily to the triple digit figures, the govern- ment's ineptitude led to the collapse of the most important non-medical tool in the fight against the proliferation of the pandemic – proper and timely contract tracing, which simply buckled under the overload of work. The recent assessment that those who contracted the virus are cured within a two-week period without the need of an official swab test means that the government is now resort- ing to reporting "presumed" recoveries, rather than actual. This is the political respon- sibility that our Prime Min- ister must shoulder. Respon- sibility which should also be shouldered by the Minister for Health and all the other mem- bers of the Cabinet, who have, yet again, collectively failed to stand up to the promotion of a false sense of security by the premier himself. In defence of the Prime Min- ister, as he himself stated, there was no rulebook for him to fol- low. However, similarly, New Zealand's Labour Prime Minis- ter Jacinda Arden too did not have a rulebook to follow. Yet the number of deaths in the is- land nation across the Tasman Sea with a population 10 times larger than ours stands in the low double digits – just 26 at the time of writing. Comparisons are odious in- deed. Especially when speaking about political responsibility. Immediately on the outbreak of the first case in her country, Arden imposed the strictest regulations in the world, for which she unashamedly said she would "make no apologies". New Zealand's strategic ap- proach was to throw everything at it at the start and aim for total elimination, something which it practically managed to achieve. When they succeeded, Arden refused to put the guard down. That is competence. That is strong, decisive political lead- ership. That is what we lack with our Labour Party in gov- ernment and today, more than ever, we have proof of it. Being a small island it should have been easy for us to con- tain the pandemic, had our government acted responsibly and boldly. But our govern- ment preferred to compromise and play around with the most valuable possession we all hold – our health. And where has that led us? After a whole year of unpro- ductive agony, our health sys- tem is hanging by a thread, we have long since lost our moral compass and certain sectors of the economy are unjustly bear- ing the prolonged brunt of La- bour's amateurish approach. Sadly, the death toll speaks volumes about the grim reality our country is going through. Brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, grandparents, sons and daughters who lost their battle to COVID-19, and who we hastily buried without a proper farewell. Should the government be blamed for all the deaths? Cer- tainly not. Common sense tells us that even with the best of in- tentions certain outcomes are not avoidable. Could our government have been more responsive and de- cisive in the fight to avoid life loss? Certainly. Common de- cency dictates that we get an apology from our government for mistakes taken in good faith. Don't hold your breath. David Pace Ross is a PN candidate on the 8th District David Pace Ross COVID mistakes require an apology The recent assessment that those who contracted the virus are cured within a two-week period without the need of an official swab test means that the government is now resorting to reporting "presumed" recoveries, rather than actual

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