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Malta had a rollercoaster experience with the COVID-19 pandemic. One moment it was doing exceptionally well. The next moment it became a basket case, the second worst in Europe. It was unlikely that a little island would garner an ongoing attention in the international press when each country was focusing on its pandemic problems at home. For this research, we visited Malta and explored first-hand the dichotomy between official statements and what transpires on the ground during a pandemic. Maltese public policy communications rely on a conduit model where policy messages are sent to the public in a one-way direction. The premise is to persuade the public. However, without a feedback system, the public loses trust in the top-down approach. While the Maltese government goes about making pronouncements, within the country and in the EU, a different reality manifests itself to investigative researchers who keep their ear to the ground. From listening to the public, to following the Maltese press, the evidence mounts that a constructive discussion is warranted in pandemic situations. Pronouncements in the name of ‘science’ can only do so much. Despite all this, in the end, a backroom deal between the Maltese government and vaccine suppliers made the critical difference.



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