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Tales from the Coffeeshop: members of the Branch Covidian cult are everywhere

ΠτΔ – Επιδημιολογική συμβουλευτικ
The leaders of the Branch Covidian cult, aka the scientific team, virtue signalling from their inner sanctum at the presidential palace

I AM NO virologist, epidemiologist or scientist of any type, but I think I am still qualified, as a member of the human race with eyes and ears, to say I am fed up with this unending Covid-19 hysteria – the unrelenting scare-mongering, the daily announcement of infections, the treatment of the members of the so-called scientific team as modern-day deities, the restrictions on our personal liberties, the curfews, the lunacy of mask-wearing outdoors, the work from home nonsense, the unquestioning acceptance of all measures by our media, the constant threat of more oppression and the big fines imposed on  people for violating the decrees of what has become a police state.

Worst of all though, are the Covid-19 zealots, who welcome every repressive measure announced by the government and demand more, because, as they love to tell us, they put public health above money. This virtue-signaling and self-righteousness by this irritating mob of do-gooders (one of our customers refers to them as a new cult, the Branch Covidians), who are everywhere, especially in the media, lashing out against those who do not obey the decrees or dare to express doubts about them, is enough to cause you mental health problems.

We are forced to concede that the members of Branch Covidians care much more about people’s lives than the rest of us, the lesser human beings who are irresponsible, selfish, undisciplined, insensitive and lacking in moral fibre, to behave like sheep.


THE MAIN argument used by the zealots is that those who oppose the restrictive measures put money above health. Who are the people making this assertion? I would venture to guess the majority of them are over 65 years of age, homeowners that have a respectable monthly pension or good income and have no worries about feeding themselves and paying their bills.

There are young people among them that work for the state, SGOs or banks and are guaranteed full-pay regardless of whether they work or not. They are all in favour of lockdowns and curfews because they put public health above money, just like the lazy public-school teachers. Whereas a selfish shop assistant or restaurant waiter that needs to work to put food on the table and pay rent and bills, is opposed to a lockdown because he or she, selfishly, puts money above public health.

Most of the members of the scientific team that advises the government work for public universities, so they have nothing to lose from measures that restrict business activity. And the same is true of the politicians, who issue the decrees; they are renowned for putting everything, including public health above money. Needless to say that all these virtuous protectors of public health did not seem too bothered that many people were dying of other causes during the lockdown, because most hospitals were either closed or only treating Covid cases.


MORE RESTRICTIVE measure are imminent, according to Saturday’s Phil, which said the high number of infections would oblige the government to impose more restrictions. The scientific team would be meeting the health minister on Monday and he would subsequently brief the cabinet.

All members of the team agreed we were “in a critical situation,” said professor Giorgos Nikolopoulos, “and if the upward trend continues there must be some interventions.” He added that “a full lockdown would be effective because in this way in a month or month-and-a-half we would deal with the situation,” but acknowledged there was big opposition to this.

Finance Minister, Constantinos Petrides, earlier in the week, said a lockdown should be avoided, but nobody will be surprised if one is announced given that the Greek government has just imposed one and our government tends to follow suit, a few days later.


I AM NO data analyst but neither are the epidemiologists, who seem to be numerically challenged. The figures would not support any drastic measures. Since March, we have had just 26 direct Covid deaths – unfortunately another one, a 91-year-old woman yesterday. The  remaining seven people died with, but not of Covid. Before yesterday there had not been a death in the preceding 14 days. Are 26 deaths in eight months a reason to spread fear and alarm among the population, step up the measures, destroy the economy and wreck the prospects of the young?

The main reason for a lockdown in big European countries is the fear that the health systems would collapse because of the many cases. Our health system is under zero strain – yesterday a total of 24 people were in hospital in the 100-bed Famagusta facility, eight at Nicosia general Covid ward and five at Nicosia’s ICU. Even if these numbers increased tenfold there would still be excess capacity of beds, and places at ICUs islandwide.

Does anyone need to be reminded that during the last lockdown most public hospitals had all but shut down and 80 per cent of hospital workers did not show up for work, without the health system being put under any sort of strain?  Over-reacting and lack of perspective appear to be our national characteristics.


BEFORE the Branch Covidians issues a fatwa against me, I would like to make it clear that I am not advocating disregarding the rules – stick to social distancing, always wear your face mask indoors, wash your hands regularly and avoid crowds; the elderly and members of vulnerable groups stay at home and do your shopping before 9am. After all, there is only one Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The 39-year-old AC Milan striker tested positive for Covid-19 in late September but in mid-October was back, scoring twice in the Milan derby. He even appeared in a video, donning a face-mask and urging people to respect the rules.  “The virus challenged me and I defeated it,” he said in Italian. “But you are not Zlatan. Do not challenge the virus. Use your head, respect the rules. Social distancing and masks, always. We will win.”


THE EDITOR of the Sunday Mail sent me an email on Monday asking me to do a ‘birthday’ edition of the Coffeeshop as it would be good for the old-timers (she actually wrote long-timers which sounds more polite) of the newspaper to write something to mark the 75th birthday of the Cyprus Mail, which is on November 2.

Other old-timers were asked to write an article of their most memorable story, which was much more straightforward. I have been writing Coffeeshop for almost 30 years – it turns 30 in April next year – so you can imagine how much copy there is to choose from. Nowadays, being an old-timer, battling to hold on to his fading immaturity, I cannot remember what I wrote in last week’s Coffeeshop.

A birthday edition, going back over the last three decades, completed in five days sounded more difficult than liberating Kyrenia. I had no desire to spend five days and nights going through old volumes of the Cyprus Mail looking for memorable Coffeeshop items of which, in my not so humble opinion, there are hundreds if not thousands. There were also some that resulted in libel suits, humiliating apologies, abusive phone calls, letters of complaint, many of them justified and a variety of nasty accusations, all them untrue.


IF I HAD to choose the most inspiring individual, it would have to be the late great Spyros Kyprianou, also known as Spy Kyp, who was without a shadow of a doubt the star-man in our establishment’s first decade of life. Only once had he sued us for libel and graciously withdrew it when he became ill, but the lawyer still kept our 1,000-pound down payment for doing nothing.

There were others – the old sea-wolf Clerides and his generalissimos Kouros and Ttooulis, subsequently known as Mother Teresa for his habit of touring the country-side, with TV crews and generously donating the taxpayer’s money to stricken village communities, the Denktator of the north, Ethnarch Tassos and his foreign minister Liellikas, the Disy Fuhrer now Prez Nik and of course, Comrade Tof. We also take pride in having coined the word ‘Cyprob’, which is now in common usage.


OUR ESTABLISHMENT was the only medium on the island to report that Andreas Vgenopoulos had fooled Laiki shareholders in the share swap that gave him control of Laiki Bank, by empty promises of turning it into a regional colossus. His Marfin Laiki, punished the Cyprus Mail by not giving it any ads for three years, but unfortunately the Coffeeshop was proved right and the Mail is still around, in contrast to the bank that Vgenopoulos fooled the shareholders into handing over to him to the loud applause of newspapers and TV stations.

The Coffeeshop was also the only establishment to continuously report the corrupt behaviour of the governor of the Central Bank, Christodoulos Christodoulou (previously Mother Teresa and Ttooulis), whose poorly qualified son-in-law was given a top executive position in Marfin Laiki by Vegonopoulos. Christodoulou, as governor, also set up a school for training bank employees, in partnership with the bank employees union, and forced banks to send their employees there. This corruption was taking place in front of our very eyes, but only the Coffeeshop wrote about it.

Back in those days, people either showed much greater tolerance for corruption than they do now, or perhaps nobody took our establishment seriously.

We were also in the minority in supporting the Annan plan, for which we received a lot stick, but unlike Prez Nik we have not publicly repented for this sin, because we believed it would have been good for our Kyproulla to be whole again, even if it meant our principled rulers would have to share the spoils of power with the Turkish Cypriots and property prices would fall in Paphos and Limassol. Now, all those who patriotically voted for the Turks to keep Varosha in 2004 are crying because the Turks have decided to open it up.

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