Vaccination risks, benefits

We all understand that tourism is paramount. However, in order to encourage people to take up the offer of COVID-19 vaccination, would it not be the best policy to be completely open with the public?

For example, the discourse about blood clots is mixing apples and oranges. Speaking on ABC RN ‘Coronacast’, Norman Swan clarified that the risk of clots when taking the contraceptive pill is cumulatively one per 1,600 woman/year. And we are talking of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) usually in the legs and not fatal.

With these vaccines, we are dealing with more dangerous different clots in the brain. German researchers put the risk at 1 in 100,000 and the UK at 1 in 250,000. The BBC’s rotating panel of worldwide experts (daily on the OS programme) says that these fatalities are extremely rare; that further investigation is needed; that the benefits outweigh the risks.

Nowhere are they saying, overseas, that the link between vaccines and fatal (extremely rare) clots can be categorically ruled out. Perhaps the local thinking is that the public cannot be trusted with facts. Perhaps this is driven by the urgency to have tourism at all costs.

Also, since (again, following overseas scientists) we do not know whether these vaccines confer protection against spreading infection (because the virus may still be present in vaccinated people’s noses), the holy grail of herd immunity might need qualification. We do not know how long protection lasts nor how we will fare against the new – and yet to emerge the longer global vaccine coverage takes – variants. To this end, it remains important to keep up the local pressure regarding distancing and wearing masks.

As it is, many locals think they’re too good to protect others by wearing masks. Further, will masks be enforced on eventual tourists?

A report published in the Lancet (Medical News Today) refers to a one in three legacy of neurological/mental disorders in people who have suffered COVID-19 infection. It is important to avoid this illness not only through vaccines but also with physical measures and care.

Finally, since tourism is so vital for our country, one wonders why the obtuse short-sighted obsession with covering everything in ugly concrete. This will not attract any quality tourists – maybe the masses are only interested in mass parties. Oh, wait, that was last year…

Anna Micallef – Sliema

PA – a failed institution

The Planning Authority needs to be revamped. Photo: Matthew MirabelliThe Planning Authority needs to be revamped. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The Planning Authority has always been a failed institution. And this government made it weaker.

Let me bring two examples which also go back to the Nationalist administration.

First PA/03877/18. The development is at L-Eremita, Triq ta’ Ġulju, Qala. It consists of the granting of a permit for a three-star hotel to the spouse of Anton Refalo, who is currently serving as a minister.

The site is outside development zone, on garigue. It had humble beginnings, like in fables and fairy stories. It was a humble room occupying a 48-metre square footprint.

In 2001, the footprint was increased to 251 square metres and was not sanctioned. But then a permit was issued in 2003 to sanction additions to dwellings. And, in 2009, changes were approved.

And, in 2004, a pool was approved. The applicant was Refalo, the present minister for agriculture.

Then, in 2009, a reservoir and rubble walls, which were the target of an enforcement notice, were finally sanctioned. In 2014, a permit was issued to amend the landscaping scheme and regularise a reservoir for the collection of rainwater for irrigation.

And now voilà! A three-star hotel. A long and winding road.

The second example is in Ħal-Sagħtrija, Żebbuġ, Gozo, a massive development beneath the cliff ridge consisting of hundreds of apartments.

The permit should never have been issued.

People tell me that the site was pristine before someone started digging and breaking up the cliff side. Then it passed off as a disused quarry.

The planning law must be revamped so that the PA itself protects the natural environment.

Joe Portelli – Nadur

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