The coronavirus pandemic is bringing out the true characters and listening capabilities of many world political leaders.

While the fact that Donald Trump does not listen to medi­cal experts and scientists did not come as much of a surprise, others like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil have shown that they are made of the same Trumpian mettle.

Britain’s Boris Johnson started off on the same track as Trump, originally brushing off the dangers brought about by COVID-19 as weak-hearted sissies’ fear.

Johnson’s attitude towards the virus soon changed when he became a victim of his own macho attitude, risking his life in the process. A much more cautious approach toward the virus followed his quasi-tragic experience.

The world leader who came out of all this with flying colours is New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Instead of trying to assert herself as the political supremo of the country, she followed the advice of her medical experts and then proceeded to impose immediate drastic isolation measures, which had the effect of successfully neutralising the virus in her country.

In Malta too, coronavirus has helped to further bring out the real character of Prime Minister Robert Abela. Just under two months ago, I had written: “Three months down the line and my initial [positive] impressions [about Abela] have been totally quashed. As from day one, Abela has shown that he is not his own man and is proving to be just the pleasant face of a “patt imxajtan” (a devil’s pact) with three issues that have completely dictated the prime minister’s agenda: Muscat/Keith Schembri; the developers; and the hunters.

The coronavirus emergency has cemented this belief: Konrad Mizzi has been allowed to flee from Malta, Joseph Muscat has been appointed Abela’s economic advisor, Sandro Chetcuti’s building lobby was allowed to get on with its work while all of us were locked in, and the hunting lobby were given the go-ahead to continue with their ‘pastime’, while all of us other citizens were deprived of any access to our pastimes and preferred sports.

The coronavirus crisis brought out a fourth category, the hoteliers, who also got preferential treatment. While they rightly got €800 a month from our taxes to help out with their employees’ sala­ries, some did not add the full €400 which was supposed to be their part of the deal.

In the meantime, other categories of self-employed either got €8.41 a day as benefits or even nothing at all. Zero hour contract workers were also left in the lurch.

Robert Abela’s behaviour during these past two months has been a watered down Mediterranean version of Trump’s machismo

It would seem that the MHRA’s Tony Zahra ridiculing our medical class and healthcare workers with his “Where are the thousands of deaths?” has a much stronger hold on Abela than other less fortunate categories of citizens.  

Abela’s behaviour during these past two months has been a watered-down Mediterranean version of Trump’s machismo: on the one hand, he has contradicted various times our medical authorities with his “Don’t let them scare you”, “the only waves are in the sea” and “go and enjoy the sea”, and on the other, his unscientific declarations that “we have conquered the virus” and “let us celebrate our return to normality”.

The real truth is that we do not know exactly how the virus will behave.

As I write, after a two-day spike we have had a string of six days in a row of one to zero positive cases. Which is indeed very good. The impression of a layman, totally ignorant of science, such as I am, is that the virus’s intensity seems to be waning with every day that passes.

However, I believe that the moment of truth will be our Sette Giugno (2020). Why?

June 7 will be 15 days after the reopening of restaurants and other outlets, the virus’s maximum incubation period. This means that by June 7 we will know whether the relaxing of measures on May 24 has had any effect.

The Sette Giugno will also be around 15 days after Abela told us all “Ejja niċċelebraw” (Let’s celebrate). Unfortunately, the Floriana football fans and, to a minor extent, the Żejtun and Marsa ones, took our prime minister literally... and they did go out to celebrate. Around Sette Giugno, we will discover if there were any serious consequences to these celebrations.

If nothing serious happens, then, as a layman, I believe we will be able to enjoy summer. It seems the airport will reopen in July; however, we will have many less tourists than previous Julys and Augusts and we should therefore have more space to ourselves on our beaches and buses.

The real crux of the whole COVID-19 issue will then be the November-February period. Abela has already decreed that we have beaten the virus. Scientists instead are predicting a possible second attack by the virus as from November onwards.

I would hope that our prime minister is right, but I fear that the scientists might know a bit more than him or me.

It will only be in six months’ time that we will really get to know the truth.

Arnold Cassola, former secretary-general, European Greens

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