There are no two ways at how to look at this. The numbers are up; whether the hundreds of cases we are seeing now are imported, locally transmitted or through illegal immigrants reaching our shores we have an unprecedented number of COVID-19 infections, which we can all agree we can well do without. Over the past months, conflicting statements have come hard and fast, mainly from our country’s top movers and shakers, who firmly stood in polarly opposite camps; those who were hell for leather for the economy to reopen and those, mainly from the medical camp, whose main concern was the health of the nation.
And so, to another day and another industry stalwart backtracking on what was supposed to be sagacious wisdom dispensed earlier to the teeming masses, with much gravitas and authority. In an interview with The Malta Independent, MHRA President Tony Zahra has apparently now woken up to the fact that we have ‘possibly opened for mass events too fast’. Wow! If understatement was an art, Mr Zahra has not only nailed it but mastered it to the hilt.
Zahra speaks of hindsight, elucidating for us mere mortals that, ‘hindsight gives everyone 20/20 vision.’ The sheer bloody cheek! Why, Mr Zahra, hindsight should be the very reason which would compel each and every one of us, including public figures like yourself, to tread with caution before we dare to air our opinions, especially ones which can and will impact the wellbeing of a whole country. We have a saying in Maltese, ‘kieku u kien qatt ma ltaqgħu flimkien’, which loosely translated means, ‘what if and what was have never met’. It is very easy to preach and postulate now that the ‘deed’ is done and we are all nose-deep in the proverbial dung.
This is also the same Zahra, who like the inevitable prophet of doom has in the very recent past forecast the darkest of Armageddons for our country if we did not adopt a ‘business as usual’ stance during the pandemic. In an interview in May with Lovin’ Malta, the same Zahra has dispensed a number of what now, in hindsight, were truly some howling chestnuts. Although not commanding any medical expertise of any kind, Mr Zahra claimed that the common flu has had more of an impact on health systems than COVID-19. In the same interview he also dished out that ‘Project Fear’, as he was fond of calling the predictions by medical authorities, would lead to mass unemployment in the tourism industry, with thousands made redundant.
And back then, like every other playground bully, Zahra got what he wanted, with the government bowing to his demands with very few, if any, reservations. Which brings us squarely to where we are now, living in a country, which until a mere few weeks ago was being touted as an example for the rest of Europe, of how to control the pandemic. Yes, we cannot isolate ourselves forever, we cannot save ourselves from succumbing to the pandemic and then bring an economy to its knees with all the ensuing repercussions for our families. But, and it is a huge BUT, we could have paced better our country’s relaunch and we could’ve for once, not bow to the gloom and doom predicted by certain quarters which historically have only one common interest; their profit margin. We could have heeded better the advice emanating from medical experts, who have warned incessantly that this is what we can expect if we act rashly.
Well, that’s hindsight for you, something which Mr Zahra seems to now have discovered. If only Mr Zahra and his ilk had the foresight to perceive that while a country with a paralysed economy cannot function, neither can a country with a diseased population which can neither earn nor, more importantly for Mr Zahra, spend and consume. Perhaps, if it wasn’t for such short-sightedness, we wouldn’t all be struggling to come to terms with the fact that yes, we are facing a second wave of this deadly virus, a wave which seems to be impacting our nation much more adversely than the first.