The continuing spread of COVID-19 raises the fundamental question as to how countries should take decisions for the common good of their people.

In democracies, the determination of what is the common good can be influenced by lobbies whose agenda could be in tension with the interests of the silent majority. The risk of modern-day democracies is that powerful lobbies can influence politicians to an extent where policy and legislative decisions are not taken for the common good of that society.

COVID-19 and the recent experiences in Malta have highlighted the dangers of the common good being skewed through economic lobbying. Unfortunately, the short-sightedness of lobbyists like the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, mass event organisers and Paceville bar and nightclub owners led to strategies which are contrary to the common good of our country.

The Ministry of Tourism failed to work for the common good of the Maltese population and ended up being a mouthpiece for short-term vested commercial interests.

The so-called mechanisms which were promised failed to materialise and I very much doubt that there were any in the first place. It was a national embarrassment seeing our Minister of Tourism being torn apart on the BBC and CNN.

The common good was not sought when Malta embarked on an active marketing campaign to bring in tourists from all countries, including those with a high rate of infection, coupled with absolutely no controls over crowds in enclosed spaces.

Maltese church leaders too reneged on their responsibilities. They should have known better than to give in to pressures to allow the pagan side of village feasts to take place. If the church leadership believes in the common good, it should have set an example by retaining the previous ban on all village feasts. 

While tourism and the entertainment industries are important sectors in our economy, let us not forget that there are other significant parts of our economy which will also have to bear the economic consequences of the recent tourism-driven policies.

The manufacturing, construction, commercial, financial services and gaming industries, the public service, the retail sector and the educational sector, among others, employ thousands of people whose families will be suffering as Malta reintroduces the inevitable restrictions.

Maltese church leaders too reneged on their responsibilities

Even restaurants, hotels and retailers will suffer as a result of the total liberalisation that occurred last month.

Although numbers at restaurants and shops cannot be compared to the pre-COVID era, there was at least some business being generated during the months of June and early July.

Malta had no other choice but to reintroduce restrictions to prevent the virus from spiralling out of control and creating a greater strain on the medical and healthcare resources. Our destiny is beyond our control as we are at the mercy of other countries.

Whereas the strategy adopted by the MHRA and Ministry of Tourism might have promised short-term gains, the long-term negative effects on the mental and economic well-being of Maltese society are likely to far outweigh the limited gains over just a few weeks.

While it was tempting for the government to blame the resurgence of the virus on the migrants arriving in Malta, the obvious question one asks is why were only migrants being swabbed on entry into Malta whereas no tourists were being swabbed? 

Admittedly, many European countries rushed to reopen borders when no vaccine was yet in place, but Malta was foremost in doing so with absolutely no restrictions being retained and, at the same time, encouraging mass events.

How can one justify that to be in the common good? We can expect an increase in deaths of vulnerable persons.

And it is sad that the reintroduction of restrictions will lead to people being unable to be close to their sick, elderly or dying relatives.

Various studies earlier this year had indicated that airports should not reopen before the end of this year  and the tourism industry should have geared itself for that eventuality.

In the spirit of solidarity within the community, the government should have continued to support the affected entities by subsidising the wages of employees. Some operators would have struggled but the country needed to ensure that the larger part of the population would not suffer.

There were times when Malta was proudly parading the manner in which it was fighting the spread of the virus. At this stage, we can only be ashamed of our country as having propagated the spread of the virus. 

The doctors’ and nurses’ associations have rightly been highlighting the urgency of effective policies being implemented by the authorities to stop the spread of the virus.

Not everyone will be pleased with such decisions but the common good requires that tough decisions be taken in the interest of the well-being and health of society at large.

The country needs to act effectively before it is too late.

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