The MAM doctors' union on Monday issued a new threat of industrial action unless the government acts decisively to counter the spread of COVID-19.

In a statement issued hours before the government is expected to announce measures to contain the virus after a surge in cases, the MAM said directives which it suspended last week would be reactivated if the expectations of health experts are not met.

Health Minister Chris Fearne is due to hold a press conference at 11am.

The doctors' union insisted that vulnerable patients must be protected at all costs. Discos and bars should be closed, it said, and parties on land or on sea should be forbidden.

No gathering of more than 10 people should be allowed. The wearing of masks  and social distancing must be made compulsory and strictly enforced "preferably by the police".

All Maltese citizens returning from abroad should be requested to swab or quarantine on arrival, while tourists should be obliged to swab 72 hours before visiting the island, the union added.

The MAM first issued its directives on August 5, hitting non-urgent services across the medical sector including elective surgery and services in the hospital outpatients' department. The directives were brought into force the following day and followed by well over 90 per cent of union members. They were lifted after a few days following talks with the health minister.  

The union said it was "genuinely preoccupied" by statements by the prime minister, who, it said "does not appear to fully comprehend the gravity of the situation for public health and the economy".

It was blatantly untrue, it said, that Malta has the lowest number of COVID-19 cases, as Prime Minister Robert Abela claimed. On the contrary, it had the highest number of new cases in the last two weeks per population in the EU, even after excluding migrants arriving by boat.

"While there were no (new) deaths to date, as deaths lag 3-6 weeks after turning positive, this fact does not afford much re-assurance.

"Furthermore, while the prime minister was on holiday in Sicily three patients were in intensive care, 40 hospitalised, with 11 new cases in care homes, the union said. 

The union said it would reactivate all its directives as from Tuesday if government measures fall short of its expectations.

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