Prime Minister Robert Abela has defended his actions over COVID-19 claiming they were all backed by "scientific evidence", as Malta enters a second shutdown with one of the highest rates of coronavirus infections in the world. 

Speaking during an urgent debate in Parliament called by the Opposition, Abela insisted the government did not shy away from taking "all the necessary decisions" even when they "broke [their] hearts".

After reporting a record-smashing 510 cases on Wednesday, he announced a four-week shutdown of all non-essential services, entertainment venues and schools.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Malta has the sixth highest rate of COVID-19 infections in the world, despite also having the highest rate of vaccine in the EU.

 "Some decisions broke our hearts – like closing airports, shops, schools…this was possibly the hardest decision. But this is what we have always done and this is what we will continue to do," he said.

"We calibrated the decisions depending on the situation at hand. We were guided by the scientific evidence, but we took decisions. I too lost people to the virus and you feel the sorrow with every death."

Abela, who has been sharply criticised for his comments, including predicting Malta would be back to 'business as usual' by May, began and ended his speech by urging the Opposition to refrain from resorting to partisanship. He said the people deserved better and now was not the time for such behaviour. 

On what was behind the recent spike in numbers, Abela said there were two main issues right now - the spread of the highly-infectious UK variant and so-called COVID fatigue. 

But there is hope the pandemic would end, he said, and this was because of the vaccine. 

"The vaccine is the solution. Together with that, we have a series of restrictive measures," he said. 

"But looking at our over 80s category, we are already seeing results. The admissions of these people in hospital went down completely. That is why we reaffirm the solution is the vaccine and why or strategy will continue to be aggressive and we will continue vaccinating as many people as possible in the shortest possible time," he said. 

The prime minister said the government has been transparent over the past 12 months and would continue to be. 

"We wanted to be transparent, to not fool people. Some countries reduced the number of tests to give an impression the numbers are down. Our doctors always urged us not to do that and we never did," he said. 

Abela also urged people not to try and be hopeful and not focus only on "doom and gloom". 

"We need to be hopeful and not spread doom and gloom. At the same time, we also need to be realistic while being optimistic," Abela said, again insisting people are "humans and not robots". 


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