193 new Covid-19 cases – Malta News Briefing – Friday 15 January 2021

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Updated 1745- News Portal Updated

Times of Malta reports that queues and disorganisation at healthcare centres have complicated rollout

MaltaToday reports that Robert Abela says disability commission chair Oliver Scicluna’s co-option to parliament will be discussed in the parliamentary group and party executive

TVM reports that Prime Minister Robert Abela has said that during the year of the pandemic, a total of 190 projects had been approved, generating 1,900 new jobs with a total investment of € 140 million.

Newsbook reports that Prime Minister Robert Abela did not recuse himself when cabinet decided on a request for presidential pardon filed by one of the three alleged hitmen in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Updated 1240 – Covid-19 Update

Malta registered 193 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, with an additional 143 patients recovering. The new cases were detected from 3,602 swab tests. 

One further patient died at Mater Dei Hospital earlier on Friday. Malta currently has 2,643 COVID-19 patients. 151 patients are currently hospitalised, 16 of them in intensive care.

Updated 1215:More trips but less passengers cross to Gozo in 2020

Trips to Gozo increased during the past year, as many locals opted in favour of travelling between the islands during the coronavirus pandemic particularly during the Summer months. Data released by the NSO today shows that overall, during 2020, the number of trips went up by 1,421 or 5.1 per cent, when compared to 2019.

Despite this increase in trips, the number of passengers crossing the channel went down by 2,143,799 or 36.2 per cent, while vehicle movements between the islands decreased by 230,771 or 12.9 per cent, over the previous year.

Updated 0911 – Vaccine cannot be only criteria for travel – MHRA

A vaccine certificate should not be the only criteria for one to be allowed to travel, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association said today. Malta is said to be pushing, alongside Greece, for a common vaccination certification in the EU.

The MHRA said that the reality of the vaccination situation in Malta is that the vulnerable and those over 65 will be vaccinated by May. This timeframe is even later in many other countries. The lobby group said that “should a vaccine certificate be the only criteria to travel, it is likely that summer travel will be reserved to this group only.”

Steward to leave Gozo General Hospital – Chris Said

Steward Healthcare will leave the Gozo General Hospital by the end of January, PN MP Chris Said said. Writing on Facebook, Said revealed that the hospital will return to government hands, adding that this is a great victory for Gozitans and a great victory for the Nationalist Party which has been fighting against the privatisation of the Gozo General Hospital since the first day it emerged.

The process of privatization of the administration of three hospitals is still mired in controversy with allegations of corruption. Moreover, Steward Healthcare is facing a $5 million claim in a London court from an American investor who loaned Vitals Global Healthcare millions in their initial bid to obtain the controversial hospitals privatization in Malta.

Updated 0830 – Newspaper Review

The Independent speaks to Labour Party insiders who claim that the Prime Minister pressured tourism authority chairman Gavin Gulia to contest the casual election in the 7th District to block the other candidates, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Charles Azzopardi.

In-Nazzjon says that the government parliamentary group is divided over the resignation of Gavin Gulia right after he was sworn in as a representative on Wednesday. The paper says the Prime Minister wants to select the MPs himself.

The Times reports that Malta is set to receive €42 million to temper the economic effects of Brexit. The funds will go to alleviate businesses and jobs in the impacts mostly impacted by the UK’s departure from the EU.

L-Orizzont speaks with the Director of International Affairs at the Customs Department, Ian Muscat, about the first week after Brexit. Muscat said that there was less movement of goods but more questions, particularly about imports of foods and cars.

The Times says that the family of Miriam Pace, the victim of a house collapse last year, criticised a decision by the Prime Minister not to publish a report into the incident. The family’s lawyer said they were ‘baffled’ by the secretive approach.

In-Nazzjon quotes the PN Coviid-19 Action Team who called for more transparency in the government’s vaccination programme. The group said that it is unclear who is coordinating the effort and how the process is being managed.

L-Orizzont interviews Olivia Galea Seychell, mother of a nine-year-old Beppe following the publication of his first book. The mother says that writing helps her son, who has autism, to express himself.

The Independent reports that a WHO team has arrived in Wuhan to start an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. Scientists believe that the deadly virus transferred from bats to humans in late 2019.

In-Nazzjon reports that the number of Covid-19 casualties has risen to 235 after a 65-year-old woman succumbed to the infection on Thursday. More than 2,300 new cases have been registered since the beginning of the year. 

Morning Briefing

Covid-19 Vaccination programme picks up pace

13,275 COVID-19 jabs will have been administered in Malta by the beginning of next week, Health Minister Chris Fearne said yesterday evening. Speaking on TVM, Fearne added that the first healthcare workers will start receiving their second jabs on Sunday.

Malta is expected to receive some 750,000 jabs between Pfizer and Moderna, with deliveries every two weeks. Fearne insisted that health authorities “have the manpower, the logistics, the plans, the freezers…we are leaving nothing in the freezers except the second doses”. By the end of January, 70% of healthcare workers will have received the vaccine.

The Deputy Prime Minister refused speculation that the process is slow, arguing that across the EU, 1% of the people have been vaccinated, Malta is doing far better, with 2.7% of the population receiving their first dose by Monday, Fearne said. Malta, he said, is leading in the EU along with Denmark.

Medical associations disturbed by increase in cases

A number of Medical Specialist Associations in a statement have said that they are “disturbed and dismayed” by the resurgence in the number of Covid-19 cases and called for an increase in restrictive measures.

While arguing that some people have behaved irresponsibly over the festive period, the associations added that “this was compounded by a lack of political will to restrain social mixing”. They called for measures to avoid a repeat of what happened over Christmas in the upcoming Carnival holidays. The statement added that politicians must refrain from any discourse that is unscientific and that confuses the public.
“We are nowhere near any semblance of normality and saying that we are is insulting to all front liners and to COVID victims and their families”, they said.

“We continue to get the impression that politicians are resisting to take on board the advice of experts in the field. This pandemic is far from over.”

The associations include the Malta College of Pathologists, Malta College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Malta Association of Ophthalmologists, Geriatric Medicine Society, Association of Anaesthetists, Malta, Malta Association of Dermatology and Venereology, Maltese Paediatric Association, Maltese Association of Radiologists and Nucelar Medicine Physicians, Malta Association of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, Association of Surgeons of Malta, and the Malta Association of Public Health Medicine.

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