The decision to lure people to Valletta in the run-up to Christmas to boost business and shopping in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century is baffling, illogical and hugely disrespectful to say the least. The count of the COVID-19 victims is rising fast and has exceeded 100, with the active cases hovering around 2,000.

Meanwhile, the alarm bells are sounding as the health care service is increasingly coming under strain, and if the trend persists it might collapse.

Nonetheless, government felt it was appropriate to entice families to flock to Valletta by offering free parking on public holidays to “promote the Christmas spirit” during the shopping season. This was topped up by organising what are being deemed as “small events” around the capital like choir singing and artistic performances.

Faced by a barrage of criticism including from medical experts, government insisted all these events would be held in conformity with health protocols including social distancing. Such assurance, however, is as comforting as promising it will be snowing on Christmas Eve in Malta for the next 50 years. For some this has already translated as a message to party whatever the cost.   

Questions beckon – What are government’s priorities right now? Is it trying to keep the economy afloat even at the risk of putting people’s lives at risk?

Measures taken so far to boost businesses such as the vouchers scheme have been successful but throwing caution to the wind to the detriment of people’s lives in the name of the economy should never cross anybody’s mind.

Government has not learnt its lesson from last summer when it hastily declared victory in the war against Covid-19, only to be dragged back to its neck within weeks.

Calls to reward front liners who have been fire fighting for months might have fallen on deaf ears but fuelling the fire which might burn down the entire house is utterly irresponsible.

This time of the year is all about giving, generosity and solidarity. The greatest prize which we as citizens should be promoting is to show more respect to healthcare workers by avoiding to exposing them to unnecessary risks.

The decision to organise this event is even more short-sighted when considering a vaccine is probably around the corner.

MEP and former Prime Minister Alfred Sant recently cautioned against any relaxation of COVID-19 measures.  “It is better to lose votes and maybe an election, than lose the lives of citizens when these could have been kept safe,” was his clear an unequivocal message. Government should heed Sant’s advice.