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MaltaToday 24 November 2021 MIDWEEK

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2 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 24 NOVEMBER 2021 2 NEWS THE European Medicines Agency (EMA) will be dis- cussing an application by Pfizer-BioNTech to extend its Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine to children aged five to 11 on Thursday. As of right now, the vaccine is only approved for use in peo- ple aged 12 and over. Until yesterday, Malta had administered 933,791 vaccine doses, of which 99,506 were booster doses. According to the European Centre for Dis- ease Prevention and Control (ECDC), 65% of Europe is fully vaccinated. Malta has been at the fore- front of vaccinations and booster doses have been rolled out among the elderly, vulner- able people, and more recently educators, healthcare workers and carers. On Tuesday, Health Minister Chris Fearne and Nationalist health spokesperson Stephen Spiteri, both doctors, received the COVID-19 booster dose together. Taking to Twitter, Fearne said: "The vaccine protected us during the summer and au- tumn. The booster will protect us during the winter. When your appointment arrives, get the booster too!" European medicines watchdog to decide on COVID-19 vaccine for children tomorrow COVID-19 Hospitalisations rise to 16, active cases surpass 900 Health minister Chris Fearne and PN spokesman Stephen Spiteri received their COVID-19 booster dose on Tuesday 71 new COVID-19 cases were registered on Tues- day, figures published by the Health Ministry show. No new deaths were reg- istered in the last 24-hours, with the total number of deaths standing at 464. Active cases stand at 907 after 30 recoveries were reg- istered. There are currently 16 coronavirus patients being cared for at Mater Dei Hos- pital, of which two are in the ITU. Until yesterday, 933,791 vaccine doses were adminis- tered, of which 99,506 were booster doses. LUKE VELLA ARCHBISHOP Charles Scicluna has warned against the facilitation of drugs amid parliamentary discus- sions on cannabis reform. Scicluna was speaking at the inauguration of an adolescent drug therapeutic centre in Ibwar. The €4 million centre will offer substance abuse services for those aged 13 to 18, and will be run by Caritas. Both Caritas and the Church expressed fear that a new cannabis reform will normalise drug use. The new Bill would allow a drug user to grow up to four cannabis plants at home, and would be free to carry up to 7g of cannabis without criminal reprimand. "Youths should take informed choices and the state should inform and educate them, whilst promoting an alternative and healthy lifestyle," Scicluna said. He added that the Church is willing to offer help to the state in fulfilling this. Prime Minister Robert Abela praised Caritas at the inauguration for remaining a vital partner to govern- ment. "In Caritas, we have a partner that helps us reach this aim, although we might have different opinions," he said. Anthony Gatt, Caritas Director, described the open- ing of the new centre as a historic moment. "The cen- tre welcomes 13-18 year olds and offers an opportuni- ty for those who would have ended up in hospital or possible prison," he said. Family Minister Michael Falzon added that the state is sending a strong statement through this inaugura- tion. "It is vital that we offer a second chance to every- one […] Reaching out is essential, as drugs are not a solution but a problem," Falzon stated. Archbishop sounds warning on drugs at inauguration of Ibwar drug therapeutic centre Government will insist that Steward honour all its contractual obligations Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 At the time, Abela was an MP and sat in Cabinet as an advisor to then prime minister Joseph Muscat. The side agreement meant that even if the hospitals concession agreement is rescinded by a court of law, it will be deemed as a govern- ment default and the State would have to pay Steward a penalty of €100 million. Choosing his words carefully, Ab- ela said government will insist that Steward honour all its contractual obligations. "The governmnent will do everything legally possible to get out of the €100 million penalty, if Stew- ard decides to withdraw from the contract," he said. "Our message to Steward is that the government will pursue every legal action possible , should the contractual obligations not be met," The Maltese government is refus- ing demands by Steward Healthcare for an amended concession agree- ment for higher payments, and MaltaToday reported on Sunday that government has made it clear it will refuse a potential €100 million claim by the American company. The hospitals concession was orig- inally granted to VGH, an obscure company with no track record in the medical field. However, VGH failed to honour its obligations and went belly up, transferring the con- cession to Steward in 2018. The contract is being challenged in court by former Opposition leader Adrian Delia, who is asking for the concession agreement to be terminated. In separate court pro- ceedings Steward is refusing to pay former investors in VGH, claiming that the contract was vitiated. The National Audit Office has slammed the concession agree- ment, insisting it was a "predeter- mined deal". It had pointed an accusing finger at an agreement signed between the government and some of the investors involved in Vitals Global Healthcare before even the request for proposal was published, ques- tioning the integrity of the eventual concession.

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