Today is an unusual Victory Day remembrance for the Maltese islands. Having perhaps celebrated prematurely victory on the coronavirus, we find ourselves three weeks before the re-opening of schools with more than 30 daily Covid-19 cases in the past weeks and businesses feeling the pinch with commercial activity in Malta’s shopping hubs, such as Valletta and Sliema remaining very poor, particularly in the retail sector more than in the hospitality one.
We have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, to turn a popular saying on its head.
It would be far too easy to blame Government who has definitely rushed in celebrating what it described as the end of the virus on our shores. Yet, to be frankly honest, most of us were already packing Malta’s popular beaches, joining feast celebrations in the local clubs and gathering together in family events, weddings and bar-be-ques. In a month of frenzy, we ended up back to square one. Despite the words of caution by the health experts, many would have none of that.
This time however, Government and businesses cannot afford another lockdown. Having utilised significant parts of its war-chest, Prime Minister Robert Abela will certainly not ask people running their enterprise further to the ground and close shop again. Besides keeping with the original mantra of staying safe, authorities have kept a low profile over the past weeks, wary of inducing further concern among the population whose outdoor activity is necessary to spur the regeneration of the economy.
This this time, it is truly up to us.
We tend to blame politicians for anything around us, but are we going that extra mile in ensuring that this pandemic is collectively beaten? All we have been asked to is to respect social distancing and observe basic health exigencies. Yet, a quick look on social media constantly displays groups of people huddled together in bars, bbq’s and other social events, events which might not technically be breaking the law – but certainly are not helping the situation either.
In many cases, employers have also gone back on their word with regards to flexible arrangements and teleworking. Both the public and private sector were quick to sing the praises of allowing employees to conduct their desk-job from the safety of their home, but six months down the line, it seems that this is once again being resisted.
A number of episodes have also been reported at recent sporting events were despite organisers setting up a top-notch event which respected all guidelines, interested third-parties simply ammassed themselves outside the official perimiter, defeating the purpose of limiting entrance to such events.
Government has a duty to regulate and enforce but it cannot police us on our rooftops as we host that end-of-Summer family get together. To put it mildly, we areacting like a little child that resists eating that extra cookie in the presence of his parents, only to sneak back and munch it down while they’re not around. By doing this, we are only kidding ourselves.
The longer this situation persists, the harsher it will be. While Government has done well in supporting businesses through wage supplements, tax deferrals, rent support and others, such monies are ultimately coming from the taxes we pay. There is a limit, however, to the extent such support can continue to be provided. Government will have only two options: getting into more debt, which will have to be re-paid one day, or let businsseses go down. In both scenarios, we will all suffer.
It is therefore our collective duty to defeat this virus by observering the basic health guidelines, respecting social distancing and trying to limit our social interactions with a relatively limited bubble of people.
Victory truly depends on us.