Malta-24 News Briefing – Saturday 17 October 2020

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Update 1418 – Two co-options for Labour Party Parliamentary Group

MEP Miriam Dalli and OPM chief of staff Clyde Caruana will be joining the government’s parliamentary group filling two recently-vacated seats.

In a meeting of the Labour Party executive on Saturday afternoon, Prime Minister Robert Abela presented his plan for the two to be co-opted to the House in the coming days.

Update 1258 = Teachers’ Union calls for school closure protocols

The MUT, declared, that it is expecting the Government to start discussions on the protocols for school closure. In a statement, the union said that it is evident that the high number of daily positive cases and the alarming virus transmission in the community is impacting schools, educators, students and families.

Anytime, some schools would have to close. However the criteria which shall lead to such closure are not known. The MUT is questioning the uniformity in the approach, as there cannot be distinction between state and non-state schools or between primary, secondary or post secondary levels.

The MUT expects this situation to be given priority whilst it affirms again that it was the Government which opened schools and whatever happens in schools or as a result of their physical opening is entirely its responsibility.

Updated 1231 – 204 new cases of Covid-19

Malta has registered an increasingly worrying 204 cases in the past 24 hours alone. Within the same period, 42 persons have recovered, meaning there are now 1,257 active cases.

Doctors, Nurses’ associations react to new measures

Earlier today, in a statement, the doctors association welcomed the new measures introduced by Government but expressed themselves as “very sceptical and unconvinced about the willingness to enforce by the government”. 

The MAM criticised the government’s business as usual attitude and the illusion of “fake normality” which doctors said had backfired.

“Closure of bars at 11pm will have no impact at all, while the very low number of 800 fines in two months does not augur well. Sadly this reflects the reality that the government is unwilling to enforce,” the association noted.

The MUMN also shared their concerns on the increase of Covid cases being issued on a daily basis. “Such increase will definitely have a negative impact on all hospitals including primary care, elderly institutions and MDH at the detriment of the patients and the staff”, it said.

Such increase in numbers will result in more patients being admitted to hospitals and more outbreaks of Covid will result in our Healthcare setting, the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses added.

The Union also noted that there were not enough nurses to treat 100 COVID-19 patients in intensive care after it was reported that Malta’s ITUs can accommodate up to 100 coronavirus patients.

Updated 0911- Newspaper Review

The Independent reports on new coronavirus measures requiring masks to be worn at all times outside of home, including at places of work. Police officers will start issuing fines to people breaching the new rules.

The Times says that bars and clubs will be required to close by 11:00 pm to help control the spread of coronavirus. Addressing a press conference with the Health Minister and the Public Health Superintendent, the Prime Minister said the government will beef up enforcement.

L-Orizzont quotes Prime Minister Robert Abela who admitted that Covid-19 cases have increased but said that the situation is under control. Abela announced that the government will introduce a new set of measures to safeguard jobs.

In-Nazzjon reports an announcement by PN Leader Bernard Grech that he is setting up a Covid-19 Action Team to assess the situation and make recommendations. Grech said the team will meet social partners to forge a common plan.

The Independent follows the testimony of Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis in the Caruana Galizia public inquiry who admitted that he chatted, dined, and went on a boat trip with suspected mastermind Yorgen Fenech, but said it was all ‘in good faith’.

The Times reveals that Electrogas shareholders used government-guaranteed loans to pay themselves ‘success and development’ fees. Yorgen Fenech was paid €2.5 million for his work on the power station project.

L-Orizzont says that the police are investigating a video on social media showing a young man bullying another by hitting him on the head. Family Minister Michael Falzon said that bullying leaves serious effects on the victim.

In-Nazzjon says that the number of active Covid-19 cases rose to 1,099 after another 122 infections were registered on Friday – a new daily record high. There are currently six people in intensive care and twelve in the infectious diseases unit.

Morning Briefing

New measures to slow down spread of Covid

The wearing of masks will be made mandatory outdoors and bars and clubs will be ordered to shut by 11pm in a new wave of measures intended to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

These were announced in a press conference headed by PM Robert Abela yesterday evening. Abela said that Malta is at a critical moment in terms of controlling Covid-19. Referring to the budget, he said: “On Monday, the government will announce economic measures to help Maltese and Gozitans to safeguard their jobs and to keep businesses strong.”

The new measures impacting establishments will come into effect on Monday. Those not wearing masks in all outdoor public places will be fined from October 24 though the measure comes into effect from Saturday.

More details here.

Daphne Project reveals payments to Fenech from Swiss firm with Azeri links

The Daphne Project continued to make new revelations throughout Friday on the third anniversary of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death, claiming that a company owned by Daphne Caruana Galizia murder suspect Yorgen Fenech received a €2.3 million payment from a firm run out of Switzerland with links to Azerbaijan.

The Times of Malta reported that a payment was made to Fenech‘s 17 Black on November 24, 2015 by Crowbar Holdings S.A, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands but which was managed from Switzerland.

The project reveals that  Swiss/Azeri citizen Mariam Almaszade, Socar Trading’s CEO, previously acted as a director of Crowbar Holdings SA, though she resigned in June 2015, prior to the 17 Black transaction. 

A silent vigil for assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia took place at Bidnija yesterday.

PN sets up action team to create Covid-19 action plan

The PN has announced the setting up an action team that will be tasked with creating a COVID-19 action plan, PN with newly-elected Opposition leader Bernard Grech questioning he Prime Minister Robert Abela’s absence during the spike in COVID-19 cases.

“Today we had another record of COVID-19 cases which means that we have almost 1,100 active cases. My question is; Where is Robert Abela? Where is he to call for action, to put our minds to rest and show that he knows what he is doing?” Grech said through a video-post on his Facebook.

Covid-19 Update

Health authorities reported another record number of new COVID-19 cases on Friday, with 122 people tested positive for the virus. This has brought up the total number of active cases to 1,095.

In her weekly briefing, Health Superintendent Prof Charmaine Gauci said that throughout this week there were 165 cases related to family clusters, which now contributes to 479 active cases. She also said that the average age of newly-infected patients was going down, with a number of new cases related to bars and football and waterpolo matches.

The Commissioner of Health Charles Messina has called for further restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. In a letter to Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci, Messina called for the obligatory wearing of masks indoors, except at homes, and in the street.

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