As I write, it is now 16 days since the regulations were relaxed for restaurants, hairdressers and other establishments, and 13 days since the Floriana, Marsa and Żejtun Corinthians fans took Robert Abela’s words literally and went out to celebrate the victory (Niċċelebraw ir-rebħa).
Numbers are showing that the spring assault of COVID-19 is waning and whether there will be a new assault in the autumn season is still to be seen.
Apart from being deprived of our liberty and being locked up at home by the authorities (but this was a measure taken for the benefit of our health), it has been an eventful four months.
The first news of this vague coronavirus issue terrorising Wuhan in China surfaced late last year. We hardly bothered about it: the Chinese seafood and poultry market where it allegedly all started was so far from our culture and way of life that we never thought the virus would ever reach the ‘modern and progressive’ European continent.
Yet, it soon did. On January 31, Britain recorded its first case of COVID-19 in York. Well, nothing much to worry about, no? After all, it was just one case. On February 23, the town of Codogno in the Bergamo province in Italy also registered its first case.
Bergamo is nearer to Malta than York and so our worry increased slightly, but still it was only one isolated case, no?
By the end of the month, however, coronavirus had already become a household name. In fact, by February 27 the positive cases in Britain had increased to 15. Yes, but still far away, no?
Two days later, we did start getting the first shivers. In fact, on February 29 the number of active cases in Italy had shot up to 1,049 active cases, and these did not include the 29 registered deaths. It was starting to get a bit too close for comfort.
On March 2, Britain registered its first coronavirus death and the following day, in one of her first televised press conferences, Charmaine Gauci pointed out that people in Malta were having second thoughts about travelling during this period.
Though our politicians spout out empty rhetoric that we are ‘the best in Europe’, coronavirus did not spare us. On March 7, the first coronavirus case was registered in our country. We were now getting really worried. A few days later, on March 11, our authorities declared Malta International Airport closed to flights from Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany and Spain.
By March 11, deaths in Italy had risen to 827. It was really getting scary. So much so, that on the same day the Italian authorities ordered all shops, bars and restaurants to close.
Why take his wife and children to London for less than 70 hours in such risky times?- Arnold Cassola
While the situation in Britain was also going to the dogs in an impressive (and fast) way, in Malta vulnerable politicians and so called ‘important’ vulnerable personalities were to be dispensed from staying locked up. Maybe they thought that parliamentary privilege provides immunity to coronavirus in Malta. This parliamentary omnipotence theory was disproved in Britain on March 11, when British health minister Nadine Dorries tested positive to the virus.
The following day, the confirmed positive cases in Britain amounted to 596 and the death toll had risen to 10. The speed with which the virus infection had progressed prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to state on March 12 that “coronavirus is the worst public health crisis for a generation”.
The situation was terrible not only in Britain but all over the world.
So much so, that on the same day, the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a world pandemic.
What seemed a far away event in China had become a world phenomenon.
The following day, on March 13, mandatory quarantine for travel from any country to Malta was declared. Now, in such a context, what would any normal father do? Naturally, try and protect his family in the best of ways.
But what does Joseph Muscat do? On March 13 he grabs his wife and children and flies them to London.
Why take his wife and children to London for less than 70 hours in such risky times? Of course, London Zoo was still open during this weekend.
But so were the London banks on that Friday, and many branches opened on Saturdays too.
The ‘Office of Joseph Muscat’ must justify the real reason for flying his family out to London during the ensuing pandemic killer.
Arnold Cassola is former secretary general of the European Green Party
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