Updated 4.15pm

Malta’s ambassador to Italy has offered his March salary to the Italian Civil Protection, as a gesture of solidarity with the Italian people during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

In a post on Facebook, Joseph Cuschieri said he was living in Rome and could witness first-hand the tragedy that the Italian people were experiencing. He said he felt “the moral duty” to make a gesture of solidarity with those who are suffering and who are victims of COVID-19, which he described as a “terrible virus”.

“While hoping that the tragedy experienced by the Italian people does not also happen to the Maltese people, I am willing to carry out the same gesture of solidarity with the Maltese people too,” he said, as he urged strength and courage in the difficult circumstances. 

However, his Facebook post was withdrawn later. Diplomatic sources said the Italian Foreign Ministry had deemed the ambassador's gesture to be in bad taste as well as a diplomatic gaffe.

Ambassadors are paid an annual base salary of €39,414 a year - €2,500 a month after tax - although that wage is bumped up considerably through a series of perks and allowances.  

Malta too is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. The country has so far registered 90 confirmed cases of the virus. It has ordered the closure of all show providing non-essential services and banned mass gathering with a view of controlling the spread of the virus. 

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