Malta News Briefing – Saturday 20 February 2021

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Updated 1240 – Covid-19 Update

Health authorities reported 199 new COVID cases over the past 24 hours and just 106 recoveries, out of 3,100 swab tests.

Two further patients died, taking the tally up to 303. 

The number of active cases stands at 2,526,

Tax Commissioner no longer on bail

The Times of Malta reveals that the police have revoked bail granted last December to tax chief Marvin Gaerty, following his interrogation over chats with murder suspect Yorgen Fenech.

The online portal says that Gaerty’s lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia confirmed when contacted on Saturday that their client had been called by the Financial Crime Investigation Department and told there was no need to report at their offices for an appointment he had been given for Monday. 

It adds that the lawyers have confirmed that Gaerty, who has continued to perform his role of tax chief, was told that he was no longer on police bail although investigations were continuing. 

Newspaper review

The Times reports that Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin issued a series of directives to 1,300 workers in the healthcare sector, slowing down medical appointments and testing. The union accused the government of dragging its feet on a new collective agreement.

The Independent quotes UĦM CEO Josef Vella following the announcement of directives for healthcare workers on Friday. Vella said that professionals are losing out on “thousands of euros” because of unfulfilled commitments by the government.

In-Nazzjon follows a press conference addressed by UĦM CEO Josef Vella who said that agreements signed by the Health Ministry for the government to absorb Steward Healthcare workers at the start of the year were not honoured.

L-Orizzont publishes an interview with Parliamentary Secretary for Housing Roderick Galdes who says that the government has plans to build 1,700 social accommodation units by 2022. The apartments are spread across different towns and cities.

The Times says that new procedures introduced with the Brexit deal combined with Covid-19 restrictions have accumulated a backlog in mail by the Customs department and MaltaPost, forcing sorting operations to continue during weekends.

The Independent reports that 52 cases of the UK coronavirus variant were discovered while one case of the South African strand was detected. Public Health Commissioner Charmaine Gauci said that pharmaceutical companies are developing vaccines to combat mutations.

L-Orizzont reports that meat-processing workers had to be transferred from Gozo to Malta after 10 workers in the public slaughterhouse were infected with the Covid-19 virus. The Ministry for Agriculture said that all safety measures are being adhered to.

In-Nazzjon covers a visit to companies in Gozo by PN Leader Bernard Grech on Friday and reports positive feedback by the business community about the energy proposals announced by the party this week.

Morning Briefing

52 cases of UK variant in Malta

In her weekly briefing, Prof Charmaine Gauci reported that health authorities had identified 52 cases of the UK variant of the virus, and only one case of the South African variant. She warned that the new variants of the virus spread faster and so appealed to the public to follow hygiene and social distancing measures.

Gauci also announced that the current vaccination process is covering cancer patients, insulin-dependent diabetics and people with heart failure. She also revealed that the average age of cases identified last week stood at around 39, with family and social activities being the principal cause of transmission of the virus.

There were 154 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, health authorities said. The 3,282 swab tests taken on Thursday also identified 148 recoveries, with the number of active cases now edging up to 2,435.
Just under 60,000 persons were vaccinated by Thursday, a third of which were second doses.

Migrants intercepted as they land in Malta

Eight migrants have been taken for questioning after allegedly having entered Malta illegally, having arrived by boat in Wied iż-Żurrieq. reported that the police was alerted at around 8.15pm that some migrants may have entered Malta by boat.
The migrants, all men, five Syrians and three Egpytians, were taken to the Police Lock-Up in Floriana.

Consumer organisations wants investigation about new bank fees

The Għaqda tal-Konsumaturi has asked financial and competition regulators to investigate various fees imposed by banks in recent months as well as bank procedures being used.

Regarding fees the Group said it has written to the Office for Competition within the Authority for Competitivity and Consumer Affairs (MCCAA) to investigate ‘bank charges’ imposed recently by two major banks, the BoV and HSBC. Various other banks have also introduced various charges following the two major banks.

Regarding these new procedures, the Group has written to the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) about the changes in condition and the imposition of fees to the detriment of clients. It said that in the majority of these cases, clients are only being informed of changes in conditions or fees without being informed how this will affect them.

Covid-19 Update

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