The saga of mask-wearing at the beach continues

Blog post by Marica Micallef

My blog “Will Mask-Wearing on the beach be a pushback on tourism?”, published on the 25th of April, criticised the Health Authorities for ordering people to wear masks on the beach, questioned whether this would affect tourism negatively and how come stakeholders and the Minister for Tourism were not consulted in the decision-making process.  On the 6th of May, local news portals published articles about the fact that now mandatory masks on beaches were to be removed. The reason that Dr Fearne gave was that after having “a lot of discussions with experts and stakeholders on the usage of masks at beaches in recent days, it’s clear that wet masks don’t work.”  Did the experts provide scientific proof about this? On which basis can this argument be justified?

Now it seems that they are consulting third parties to come up with new decisions. Surely, this was not the case before. Decisions were always taken by the Health Authorities. Did my blog serve as an illumination? Who are these experts and stakeholders, who advised that wet masks do not work? The public deserves to have names and details.

Also, isn’t this reason given, like the others in previous conferences, a laughing matter? At times they put the blame on science or a study (without specifying the study)­­ and now it was the turn of the “experts”! Do the Health Authorities come up with these reasons because they have nothing to back their arguments and statements up or to cover themselves up? Or both?

Doesn’t the fact that they have removed the mandate of mask-wearing on the beach after announcing its enforcement, show that Covid is becoming a ping-pong game? Isn’t Covid becoming a swing going back and forth?

Why is the narrative changing? Why is mask-wearing still mandatory on the streets? Aren’t the beach and the streets both public places? Do they possess different types of air? Is the virus absent at the beach but not on the streets and in other public places? Won’t this push people to go to the beach in crowds since the Health Authorities have always hammered on social distancing? Malta’s beaches are not very big, and their size naturally allows proximity so it is very impractical to order people to keep their distance. Doesn’t this show that the Health Authorities are coming up with hasty decisions? Doesn’t this show that the Health Authorities choose the narrative which will best suit the economy, in this case – to allow tourists to go to the beach? Did our Health Authorities lose their grip on the narrative?

In another article by Lovin Malta [1] we read that when his Ministry’s official Facebook page “Sahha” was asked “Does it make any difference whether the person is swimming or just standing still in water?”, the response was “Masks are only to be removed while swimming. Otherwise, they have to be worn.” The article further shows how the public was outraged at this response and came up with various comments which are quite common sense. Mandatory mask-wearing in Malta has become a complicated matter which shows that this pandemic has become a circus of the best example of an unprecedented, organised disorganisation.

So it would be apt for the public to conclude that it is not the experts, stakeholders, or science that change the narrative but public opinion. The public is the “science”. When enough of us speak up, the “science” changes. So why don’t we show our outrage about these masks and argue that since we are allowed to remove them on the beach, then we should be allowed to remove them everywhere!

It thus makes sense to state that wearing anything on our face is not about our safety. It is only about compliance. Are we going to keep on complying?


[1] https://lovinmalta.com/lifestyle/health/covid-19/masks-can-only-be-removed-while-swimming-but-not-when-standing-in-water-sahha-clarifies/

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