The Malta Chamber has issued a call for Malta’s health authorities to rethink its existing quarantine measures which force fully-vaccinated people into a 14-day mandatory quarantine after coming into contact with someone who has come into contact with a COVID positive individual.
The Chamber explained it has witnessed entire households of fully vaccinated people being put into mandatory quarantine after one of their children attended a summer school programme where a child has tested positive.
Indeed, as things stand, rules dictate that should one person in a household come into close contact with someone COVID positive, their entire household will be forced to isolate.
“This is most unreasonable”, the lobby group said, and it is “seriously concerned with this situation, which is greatly reducing the productive capacity of business operators”.
The contention of the Chamber is that, considering “a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to carry asymptomatic infection or transmit the virus to other people”, these vaccinated individuals should not be forced to isolate when they are only a secondary contact of confirmed cases.
“Employers are ending up bearing the brunt of all this, especially where people cannot work from home”, it insisted.
“If we really believe that vaccines break the chain of contagion, we need to be pragmatic and shouldn’t be placing fully vaccinated secondary contacts in quarantine,” said Marisa Xuereb, president of The Malta Chamber.
A precarious compromise
Highly vaccinated countries across the world are now facing a new, delicate balancing act.
With the vaccination seemingly dramatically reducing the worst impacts of the virus, sending hospitalisation and death rates significantly down, many have called for a move away from a focus on case numbers as the gauge for the severity of the virus.
The contention is that, as long as it is not killing or hospitalising people, the virus could be allowed to spread through the population.
The balancing act comes as well-vaccinated countries consider the extent to which the virus can be allowed to spread amongst the population as mitigation measures are lifted.
In England, where authorities lifted the final COVID restrictions this week, a compromise has been reached by which health authorities hope to keep the spread of the virus somewhat in check by requiring direct contacts of those positive with the virus to isolate for a period.
This has created a crisis in parts of the country where supply chains and business operations are jeopardised by the so-called ‘ping-demic‘ where the country’s test-and-trace app is advising swatches of the population to enter lockdown after coming into contact with a positive case.
Subsequently, the Government has this week introduced a series of exceptions by which workers in certain sectors such as supermarket depot workers and food manufacturers, regardless of vaccine status will be exempt from isolating should they come into contact with a COVID case.
These employees will instead be required to take regular (daily) COVID tests.
A notable difference between the approach of the UK and of Malta, comes in terms of how they deal with secondary contacts of COVID positive individuals – as is being addressed by The Malta Chamber.
In the UK, people who have come into contact with an individual who has come into contact with someone who tested positive do not need to isolate, unless they also came into contact with the individual.
Considering this and considering the disruptions in the UK despite their more lax approach, it seems likely an adjustment will need to be made to avoid similar disruptions in Malta.
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