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We’re not in election mode. This is not the time to play games.

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For practically four weeks, my life has been immersed in happenings related to the blessed (not) coronavirus.

Constituted bodies, political parties, the media and online self-made analysts have spent hours debating the right solutions for what is nothing short than an economic tragedy. Disagreements were publicly aired and that is, to me, the natural course of democratic debate.

However, excluding a few voices here and there, I admired the way that the absolute majority of the population, whether the commercial community or the general public generally fell in line quite easily with regard to directives which concerned their health. Prof Charmaine Gauci’s daily briefing quickly became the most anticipated time of the day, and expectations are raised every time she is flanked by her boss, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health. When the political and health authorities ordered to most of shopping outlets around the islands to close down, I have witnessed negligible complaints and no business was caught flaunting the rules. In essence, the leadership, the authority and the transparency by which restrictive decisions were explained to us were convincing – and as a result, we felt compelled to obey, almost no questions asked.

It is for precisely this reason that I feel perplexed this morning.

Yesterday, the team at Corporate Dispatch, was inundated with requests for clarifications. Many sought to understand whether persons living with elders or vulnerable persons could at least buy some essential groceries. But the fact the persons who were most at risk had to stay home for anything bar medical emergencies, was generally taken for granted and accepted as the next important step for our own safety – or in the authorities’ preferred lingo “to flatten the curve”.

Fast forward a mere few hours, and the Prime Minister appears to contradict the strong directives issued by his peers. I have absolutely no intention, and actually disagree, with social media speculations that such conflicting messages are a matter of political discrepancies. However, I am deeply uncomfortable, that elders, and here I think of my parents first and foremost, are getting such conflicting messages. It is already a challenge for most of us – even worse for the (social) media uninitiated – to figure out the correct information with the constant inundation of news, let alone if the two most prominent authoritative figures disagree in their messaging.

My appeal to the Prime Minister is not to worry about having to take difficult, restrictive measures. A few people may complain today, but they will thank you tomorrow for protecting their lives. It would be a pity to fall into the trap, if the health authorities advised him that it was now the time to up the measures, so resist in the worry of irking the population.

Leaders, we are not looking at just a political leader facing an electoral test. They are looking at the leaders of their nation to seek guidance on what’s best for them. Do not lose your people’s trust. This is not the time to play any games. The consequences would be serious. If you need people to stay inside, tell them so, tell them why. Time will prove you right.

Jesmond Saliba 

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