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Malta News Briefing – Sunday 10 January 2021

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Update 1500 – Health Students Vaccination – Health students are in contact with COVID-19 patients and should be given the COVID-19 vaccine with frontliners and other health care professionals, the Malta Health Students’ Association said.

Update 1330 – Traffic Accident A 65 year old motorcylcist is in a critical condition while his 59-year- old female pillion passenger was grievously injured in a traffic accident in Paola. The police said the accident happened in Vjal Santa Luċija at 11.50am. – Malta Police

Update 1230 – Covid-19 Update – Malta registered 184 new coronavirus cases overnight, the health authorities announced on Sunday. 82 individuals have recovered. 2,322 cases remain active. To date, the pandemic has claimed 233 lives. Newsbook

Update 1200 – Political Roundup Prime Minister Robert Abela on Sunday ruled out going for a general election before Labour’s 2017 electoral manifesto has been fully implemented.  Speaking during a political activity in Mellieha, Abela said work on implementing the manifesto was ongoing. Times of Malta reports that Speculation about the possibility of an early election has continued to grow, particularly as Malta is expected to begin the road to recovery this year from the COVID-19 pandemic. Abela said that pledges made in his party leadership race have been fulfilled.  “I keep my word with people – I promised that we would put a stop to the political crisis, I promised reforms in good governance, I promised to curb the immigration problem. Thanks to government’s work, we were able to carry out this important work, despite the pandemic,” he said.  “Looking back, I can safely say what a year this has been.” MaltaToday

If Charles Azzopardi isn’t welcomed by the Labour Party, he is welcome to sit on Opposition benches, Bernard Grech has said. The Nationalist Leader said that while he should sit on the government side of the House, given his 2017 candidacy with the Labour Party, Azzopardi will be welcomed by the opposition.  Azzopardi is one of three casual election candidates vying for the post vacated by former Finance Minister Edward Scicluna. The other two candidates are former minister Gavin Gulia, and former Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando. MaltaToday

Grech also addressed recent surveys, and in particular one conducted by MaltaToday, which showed that Grech’s trust rating increased by 4.6% as Robert Abela’s dropped by 4.7%. He said that this is encouraging for him and the PN. “These are encouraging numbers. We have to say truth. These are independent and professional surveys. It is the Maltese people saying that they want truthful politicians,” Grech said. Grech pointed out that the increase is not a coincidence, but due to the party’s encouragement for people to get involved in it. He said that participation within the PN is increasing. “People who left us are coming back to give their all,” he said. As he marks 100 days as a PN leader, Grech was asked whether more changes are going to take place within the ranks of the PN. He noted that there will be changes, but he is taking his time. Malta Independent

Updated 0900 – Newspaper Review

The Independent on Sunday reveals that a former senior minister of the Saudi government, Saad bin Khalid Al-Jabri, appears in the latest list of new Malta passport buyers. On exiled in Canada, Al-Jabri claims to have been a target of a state-sponsored assassination attempt.

The Sunday Times reveals that Lovin Malta intends to begin constitutional proceedings against party-owned stations which may lead the courts to decide on the future of One and Net. The notice argues that political stations breach the Broadcasting Act.

Malta Today reports a five-point shift in approval ratings between the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader. Robert Abela lost five points to hit his lowest-ever score of 42 percent while Bernard Grech gained five points to register his highest rating of 35 percent.

Illum claims that Ryanair subsidiary Malta Air warned that it may dismiss employees unless by the end of the month. In December, the airline let go 40 crew members after talks with the General Workers Union collapsed.

It-Torċa reports that a Malta-based pharmaceutical company is conducting clinical trials on a medicine to cure inflammatory diseases caused by the Covid-19 virus. Malta Enterprise is supporting the project with a $5 million fund.

Il-Mument marks the first 100 days since Bernard Grech was elected PN leader. The party said that a process of restructuring and renewal in the last weeks is building credibility in a future Nationalist government.

The Independent on Sunday carries an interview with Chamber of Commerce president David Xuereb who forecasts that it may take up to three years for Malta to reach the levels of economic performance experienced before the pandemic.

The Sunday Times speaks with Health Minister Chris Fearne about the surge in Covid-19 infections. The minister said that the festive period is likely to have contributed to the rise in new cases in the first week of the year.

Malta Today reports a five-point shift in approval ratings between the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader. Robert Abela lost five points to hit his lowest-ever score of 42 percent while Bernard Grech gained five points to register his highest rating of 35 percent.

Illum says that Malta Public Transport registered a decrease of around 50 percent in revenue in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The public transport operator was forced to terminate the contracts of drivers on part-time contracts.

Malta Today publishes survey findings which show that more than eight in ten people in Malta intend to take the Covid-19 vaccine. The rate falls to 75 percent among young people, the most sceptical age group.

It-Torċa says that credit rating agency DBRS has confirmed Malta’s A (High) rating. The paper says that eight international companies in the last ten months have projected stable and positive outlooks for Malta’s economy.

Morning Briefing

Three candidates to contest casual election

The casual election to fill in the Parliamentary seat vacated by former Finance Minister Edward Scicluna has attracted three nominations. These include two former MPs, Gavin Gulia, who presently occupies the role of Chairman of the Malta Tourism Authority, and Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, who in the past sat on the Nationalist Party benches.

The third contestant will be former Rabat Mayor Charles Azzopardi, who was precluded from contesting on behalf of Labour in the 2019 local elections. Azzopardi starts with the advantage of a higher number of votes from the three.

UPE slams Government, MUT on strike-ending agreement

The Union for Professional Educators (UPE) has criticised the agreement achieved between the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) and the Government, an agreement that brought an end to the strike by teachers on the last two working days of this week.

A statement by UPE said the agreement will impinge the autonomy of Church and Independent Schools. It added that since the start of the pandemic in March last year online lessons were a success for these schools. However, the UPE maintained, as a result of this agreement online lessons will no longer be possible and this will increase the risks of pandemic spread.

The MUT, in a counter-statement, denied that online training in Church and Independent Schools had been affected.

Credit rating agencies confirms Malta’s A rating

International agency DBRS has confirmed Malta’s rating at A (high) level with stable outlook. Malta’s A (high) rating is supported by its euro zone membership, moderate level of public debt, solid external position, and households’ strong financial position.

As expected, the pandemic shock has abruptly halted a period of remarkable economic performance in Malta, characterised by strong output growth (averaging 6.4% a year during 2013-2019) and shrinking the GDP per capita gap with the EU.

On the other hand, Malta’s small and open economy remains exposed to external demand or confidence shocks. In this sense, the tourism sector, an important source of income, employment, and investment in Malta, presents a vulnerability as long as the adverse effects of the pandemic continue.

Covid-19 Update

A record 245 new cases were reported on Saturday. With 69 persons recovering, the tally of active cases has now shot up to 2,221. Two more persons died from the virus, taking the country’s tally to 232.

CDE News

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