Prime Minister Robert Abela has urged people to look at how the pandemic is impacting other countries in Europe, saying Malta was like “heaven” in comparison. 

Speaking at a Labour Party event on Sunday, Abela said the authorities’ decisions and the people’s efforts had made it possible for Malta to be in a better state than the rest of Europe. 

“We are living in heaven, even at this moment. Look at what is happening elsewhere. In Sicily, Libya, Spain, France, Germany…look around you and you will see how well we are living. This is because of the decisions we took but also because the people obeyed and made sacrifices,” he said. 

His message comes one day before additional restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 come into force.

The new restrictions - the first additional restrictions to be introduced in months - will require restaurants to close by 11pm and allow inspectors to check holiday rentals to ensure capacity restrictions are being respected. 

An index by the University of Oxford recently described Malta as being one of the least strict EU countries for COVID-19 measures. 

On the new measures, Abela said the government wanted to give hope and courage to people while also making sure the situation remains under control. 

“We didn’t want to have to deal with the increase in the number of cases because of something that could have been avoided,” he said.

Abela also gave assurances that a second wave of vouchers for use in retail and hospitality outlets would be distributed as promised once the health authorities give their go-ahead. 

The vouchers were originally due to be distributed this month, but were delayed as a result of rising virus numbers and bars being ordered to remain shut. 

‘We need to be Team Malta’

Moving on to other issues, Abela called on the Opposition to join the government in supporting a revamped citizenship scheme for wealthy investors, saying it was crucial that both sides were on the same page. 

“My appeal now, while the Commission is looking at the revised programme, is that we have one single position as a country. We cannot have a government that supports the changes and an Opposition that doesn’t. We need to be on the same page about this,” he said. 

The government was open to discussing issues with the Opposition, Abela said. 

Malta's golden passport scheme currently faces EU scrutiny after the European Commission opened infringement proceedings against the country last October. The government, which relaunched the scheme last July, has said it will be defending the scheme. 

Abela also called for the same attitude when dealing with migration issues, which he said will once again be at the top of the agenda as summer approaches come May. 

Issues that could “paralyse a country for months”, Abela said, should be debated with a spirit of unity. 

The prime minister also said Malta’s “pull factor” when looking at attracting investment should be high standards. This, he said, makes the economy sustainable in the long-term. 

“This was something we also thought of when strengthening enforcement when it comes to economic crimes,” he said. 

Abela also pledged to "defend all journalists" saying it was his duty to answer questions and he would not let anyone attack the media.

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