EVERYONE must have expected the tougher restrictions on movement announced by the government on Monday as these followed an increasingly familiar script. A weekend of violations of the government measures, followed by a ministerial meeting under President Anastasiades on Monday morning and the subsequent announcement of tougher restrictions.
This time they include an overnight curfew. The curfew will be in force from 9pm to 6am, while people would be given permission to leave their home only once per day. Self-authorisation forms are banned except for people over 65. Everyone else needs to receive authorisation on their phone for their daily excursion from home, so that abuses of the existing system stop. Under the previous measures, an unlimited amount of authorisations to leave the house were given via text message, so people could be out all day long if they chose to as there were no checks on the frequency of requests.
Now, only one exit will be permitted, which could pose several problems. For instance, can a person take their dog out only once every 24 hours? Not all dog owners live in a house with garden. Another point is the time for the start of the curfew. Considering supermarkets are open until 9pm, would it not be wiser for the curfew to start at 9.30pm. This was made more necessary by the other measure announced on Monday – all shops will be closed on Sunday. For people still working, that extra half hour for shopping on weekdays can be vital.
Closing shops on Sundays will make another government objective – to keep people at a distance from each other when they are in shops – more difficult to achieve as the spread of shoppers will be over six rather than seven days. Perhaps the government has taken this into consideration and decided that restricting movement to once a day will make people plan their daily outings better, visiting the supermarket fewer times per week.
While these decisions were justified, the measures for a neighbourhood watch and random visits by police to people’s home to ensure there were no guests (visits to friends and family are forbidden) were indefensible. Will the police knock on someone’s door after being tipped off by neighbours that someone had visited? And if they see no visitor, will the police barge into the house and carry out a search?
The state using people as informers to snitch on their neighbours is politically and morally wrong under any circumstances and a dangerous path to follow. It will not even work, as health minister Constantinos Ioannou admitted in answering journalists’ questions on Monday. “The police cannot be present everywhere,” he said. They can be present on the streets, rather than in people’s homes.