Prime Minister Robert Abela has urged people to remain calm in the face of the current crisis brought about by the COVID-19 coronavirus and has promised businesses that he will announce strong financial measures to help them out tomorrow morning.
“I feel courageous and faithful because I know the people support me and trust the government’s decisions,” Abela said on Xarabank. “We know these decisions are uncomfortable but they’re necessary to safeguard public health, which will always be our utmost priority.”
He played down calls to implement a national lockdown, stating that the recent restrictive measures, such as the closing of schools and the imposition of mandatory quarantine on everyone who visits Malta, were introduced precisely to avoid such a scenario.
“Announcing a lockdown would be the easiest thing to do but it would essentially make people prisoners inside their own homes, unable to leave except to buy food and medicine, which will lead to great suffering.”
“Many people have criticised us for being too strict but we want to avoid an extreme situation, like what happened in Italy, that would require a lockdown. A lockdown is advisable if there’s sustained local transmission [of the virus], and up till now our health authorities have assured us that this isn’t the case.”
Abela said that the government’s strategy right now is to avoid the number of COVID-19 patients peaking to a point where the healthcare system wouldn’t be able to cope and that their efforts are proving successful so far.
“One of the patients has been cured after a short amount of time, which is really encouraging. The other 12 patients were also in good health when they were hospitalised and they’ve remained in good health throughout. We have a great healthcare system, one of the best in the world.”
Abela announced that he will launch a set of financial measures for businesses tomorrow to ensure all jobs in the country are safeguarded and strongly hinted that the aid could come from Malta’s sovereign wealth fund, which administers public funds generated by the IIP sale of citizenship scheme.
“Our finances are strong, our economy is resilient and it can cope with this impact,” he said. “The government has saved up money over the years and we’ll announce a strong set of measures tomorrow. The situation could last days, weeks or longer but we want the impact on the economy to be as minimal as possible.”
“We’ve always thought about a future day of necessity over the past seven years and now this moment has come. Many criticised the IIP scheme, but perhaps if we didn’t know we had millions saved up thanks to it, we wouldn’t be able to help the economy. Luckily, our country can cope and we’ll use the funds we’ve saved up as best as possible.”
In his closing message, the Prime Minister urged people to have heart, to help each other and to pull the same rope.
“This period will define who we are as Maltese people,” he said.