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Our View: Mistake to ban Cypriots from coming home

Relatives waiting on MOnday night for relatives who were banned entry

That mistakes would have been made by the authorities in their action plan to fight the spread of the coronavirus was to be expected. Decisions might not have been thought through or planning may have been found wanting, but this could not have been avoided in these difficult circumstances which nobody, anywhere in the world, has experience in dealing with. When quick decisions have to be taken mistakes can be made.

Nothing has been tested, there is no accepted, let alone proven, formula of combating the spread of the virus so authorities all over the world have been resorting to a method of trial and error. The experience of China, Taiwan and Singapore has shown that restricting contact of people to the absolute minimum, through the lockdown of the country, significantly slows down the spread of the virus, so the rest of the world, with the exception of Britain, is following suit.

The Cyprus government, correctly, has opted for the lockdown even though there have been some glitches, such as allowing people to visit patients at hospitals. Visits have now been banned but failure to impose the ban sooner led to 10 health professionals at Paphos general hospital being infected, 60 being in self-isolation and the hospital being closed down.

The lack of readiness of the so-called quarantine centres in the mountains was an example of poor organisation. Perhaps the government had thought it would not have to use them after banning entry to the country to people without a health certificate. Then again, people returning from abroad would still have had to be quarantined, even in the unlikely event they possessed a health certificate because they would have been to an airport and on an aeroplane after it had been issued. Putting four people in the same room in these centres, as happened with people arriving from the UK on Monday night, was an example of a rash policy not thought through.

The government has realised its mistake and has now said it would use hotels on the mountains that are empty and in which each person would have their own room. Mistakes will be made, but as long as they are corrected promptly nobody will criticise the government. President Anastasiades announced some measures on Friday night, but after he was advised that these did not go far enough, he imposed a complete lockdown 48 hours later.

Banning Cypriot nationals returning home from abroad – without a health certificate that is almost impossible to obtain – was a mistake, but he could argue that nobody could be exempt from the lockdown designed to restrict the spread of the virus.



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