Update by Ministry of Health
The Health Department reported that one new, sporadic and asymptomatic case of coronavirus was identified in the past 24 hours. With two persons recovering during the same time frame, the number of active persons has gone down to nine.
#MALTA-24: LOCAL NEWS
While Malta is no longer under a public emergency, and the Covid-19 situation is under control, the virus should not be forgotten and vigilance should not be reduced, according to Health Superintendent Prof Charmaine Gauci.
Gauci appealed for continued use of masks and visors and called on the public to regularly take the Covid-19 tests, even if displaying no symptoms, particularly when meeting people outside one own’s household. She said that in view of the re-opening of Malta’s airport, the health authorities were prepared to investigate and carry out contact tracing if the need arises.
A group of 30 producers in the performing arts sector are calling on the government to help the industry recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. In an open letter to Arts Minister Jose Herrera and Health Minister Chris Fearne, the collective is also demanding clarity on safety guidelines for future events.
“We need to start planning ahead, our livelihoods depend on it,” Wesley Ellul, General Manager of the troupe Comedy Knights, told Times of Malta. This is the second letter that the group sent after they received no information from their first correspondence on June 29.
Government revenue drops, mainly due to COVID19
The government’s revenue dropped by €193.6 million to €949.9 million in the first quarter of this year, when compared to the same period last year. According to the National Statistics Offices, decreases in revenue were registered in almost all categories, primarily due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The current taxes on income and wealth sector (€138.1 million) topped the list, followed by market output (€20.5 million), and net social contributions (€18.9 million).
Meanwhile total expenditure in the first quarter of 2020 amounted to €1,286.6 million – an increase of €99.5 million over the corresponding quarter in 2019.
Increases in expenditure were recorded in subsidies (€47.7 million), mostly in relation to the COVID-19 wage supplement amounting to €36.9 million, intermediate consumption (€40.8 million), social transfers in kind (€14.3 million), compensation of employees (€11.6 million) and current transfers (€8.6 million).
37% of teachers saw most of class go off radar as learning went online
Over a third of teachers reported that most of their class failed to participate regularly in the online learning that replaced regular teaching during the Covid-19 pandemic in a survey carried out by the Education Ministry.
The main findings of the survey were provided by Education Minister Owen Bonnici in response to a parliamentary question by the Nationalist Party’s education spokesman Clyde Puli.
The survey, undertaken by the Directorate for Digital Literacy, was carried out last May among all schools in Malta and Gozo, and was answered by 1,910 educators, including heads and assistant heads of school, heads of department, teachers, kindergarten educators and learning support educators.
Business Today speaks to private hospital founder Dr Josie Muscat who said that the deal to transfer state hospitals to Vitals Global Healthcare was ‘blatantly unethical’ from the start, saying the process was rigged.
The Times reveals that a police investigation into the government’s healthcare concession deal with Vitals launched last year will take into consideration the findings of a report by the National Audit Office released this week.
The Independent quotes Prime Minister Robert Abela who said the government will uphold the National Auditor’s report into the hospital deal with Vitals. He insisted, however, that that agreement is not the same contract signed with Steward Healthcare.
The Malta Business Weekly leads with a Chamber of SMEs survey which found that only three in ten businesses are confident they can survive the current economic situation for longer than a year.
In-Nazzjon says that a third of businesses reported a decrease of more than half in sales compared with last year, while another third said they lost as much 90 percent of their business to the coronavirus fallout. The study was conducted by the Chamber of SMEs.
L-Orizzont announces that the General Workers Union has been recognised as the major union representing Cabin Crew and Crew Supervisors employed with Malta-based Ryanair subsidiary Malta Air.
The Independent quotes a letter by PN MPs demanding the resignation of Adrian Delia from leadership. Signed by two members, the letter urges the embattled leader to ‘put the interests of the party and the country’ before his own.
The Times says that PN MPs are waiting for leader Adrian Delia to step down voluntarily. If he fails to do so, the parliamentary group is prepared to ask the President to appoint a new Opposition Leader.
Business Today says that PN MP Claudio Grech is the preferred replacement to Adrian Delia among the 19 members of the parliamentary group who voted against the current leader in a meeting this week.
L-Orizzont compares the situation within the Nationalist party to the struggle for the control of the Labour Party between Paul Boffa and Dom Mintoff, seventy years ago. The paper says that Tuesday’s vote by PN MPs could be the final blow for leader Adrian Delia.
In-Nazzjon quotes PN Leader Adrian Delia who said that he is determined to continue serving party members and the electorate by fighting the government’s corruption. He was being interviewed on party media.
The Times of Malta lashes on the latest report by the NAO on yet another political scandal afflicting the Labour Government, with the Editor arguing that there seems to be no limit to the level of exploitation of taxpayers by the government in the last seven years. The publication of the first part of the National Audit Office (NAO) report on the award of a hospital management contract to Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) in 2015 is described as the nadir of corruption in public governance under the premiership of Joseph Muscat.
The Business Today joins this assessment and insists that the hospitals deal must be rescinded. Contractual clauses that are deleterious to the public good and which were inserted last year to protect the interest of Steward rather than the taxpayer, should be legally challenged and those behind them investigated for collusion and dereliction of duty, insists the Editor of the business paper.
The Business Weekly expresses concern that Malta is taken the current Covid-19 situation with less attention, highlighted by the fact that while the first visitors were all donning masks and visors, the Ministers welcoming were not. The Editor argues that you cannot project Malta as a Covid-free destination if you play around with health protection. It calls on authorities to look at other countries. Visitors to Greece, for instance, are swabbed on arrival and their movements around the country are tracked.
Other countries insist on visitors taking a test before they leave their home country and carrying a document to show they’re clean. To take a temperature test on entry means practically nothing.
The Independent argues that PN leader Adrian Delia’s position is now untenable. The Editor describes Delia now an ineffective leader who does not have the backing of his own MPs or the public. The paper notes that despite the corruption scandals attributed to the current Government, Delia has not managed to move his Party in the polls.
L-Orizzont speaks up about domestic violence and the need for better efforts to understand the nature of this issue, particularly with the increase in relationships between people from different cultures. The Editor also sees the need for better education at an early stage, to ensure that men and women of tomorrow contribute to a better and fairer society.
In-Nazzjon rails against the culture of impunity prevailing in Malta, with the Editor noting that despite scandals of unseen proportion seeing the light of the day have not resulted in any form of prosecution and real punishment.
INTERNATIONAL NEWS (By corporatedispatch.com)
Australia to release most from COVID-19 high-rise lockdown despite surge
Australia’s second-most populous will relax restrictions on many of the 3,000 people locked down in nine public-housing towers despite surging numbers of COVID-19 cases, state premier Daniel Andrews said on Thursday.
Victoria state on Saturday confined residents of the towers in their homes amid a spike in COVID-19 cases, prompting widespread criticism from residents.
Andrews said that after testing all 3,000 people in the towers, residents in eight of the high-rise buildings would be allowed to leave their homes for essential reasons, the same rules in force throughout the state.
Spain’s Catalonia makes masks compulsory in public at all times
Catalonia on Wednesday ordered all residents and visitors to wear face masks in public at all times, becoming the first Spanish region to toughen a national directive mandating their use when in close proximity to others.
The order, which takes effect on Thursday, was announced by regional leader Quim Torra four days after more than 200,000 people in the Segria area were placed under a local lockdown following a series of coronavirus outbreaks there.
EU Corner – by Comuniq.EU
Merkel presents German Presidency priorities to MEPs, calls for swift agreement on economic response
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday called for a swift agreement on the European Union’s mass economic stimulus to advance unity that would strengthen the bloc as it recovers from the coronavirus crisis.
Speaking to MEPs in Brussels during a plenary session, as Germany assumed the EU presidency until the end of the year, Merkel called the pandemic the biggest challenge ever for the EU, where the euro zone economy is set to shed a record 8.7% this year.
“We all know that my visit today is taking place against the background of the biggest trial the European Union has faced in its history,” she said on her first foreign trip since coronavirus struck in Europe.