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Tales from the Coffeeshop: Godlike scientific dream team show human frailty

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WE SHOULD have expected that the champions of school closures would suddenly become the biggest critics of the school closures. It turned out that the wise men and women of the scientific dream team, who have been speaking with iron-clad assurance, imparting their wisdom about the pandemic every day to the panic-stricken masses, are also prone to feelings of insecurity.

As soon as they came under a little bit of criticism from parent groups justifiably furious about the three-month closure of gymnasiums and the closure of Limassol primary schools, they started behaving like populist politicians. All of a sudden, their scientific expertise was thrown out the window, and they embarked on pandering to the public about schools opening.

Their frightened reaction was understandable, considering that for the last year they had the role of the 12 Gods of Olympus. Everything they said was unquestioningly accepted by everyone, fearful of divine retribution. If the government was criticised for some of its repressive measures, it would just say it was acting on the advice of the dream team and voices of dissent would fall silent.

Not any longer. After the decision to keep the gymnasiums closed for another two weeks parents turned on the Gods of Olympus forcing Zeus, Dr Constantinos Tsioutis, to undertake an initiative to reopen schools before April 2. Apart from epidemiology, Zeus has expertise in everything, including educational matters and child psychology.

 

TSIOUTIS was one of the two experts quoted in a story in Phil on Thursday, calling for a “change of the narrative for the pandemic”. The other expert, Dr Fellas, head of the Special Committee for the Psychological Support and Recovery of Citizens, which has not helped anyone I know recover, feared that our children would be “stigmatised as a generation of illiterates”.

It was a bit rich for Tsioutis to demand a change in the very narrative of the pandemic that he and his dream team had developed and imposed on us. This narrative was perfectly correct as long as parents were not protesting about their kids’ schooling. Once they started protesting, Tsioutis, like a true politician, demanded a story change.

He told Phil that he feared the “consequences of the extended closing of children at home, consequences that included restriction to psycho-social development, child obesity, violent behaviour” and more. He had no such fears three weeks ago, when his team advised the government to close all the island’s primary schools until the end of this month.

Some ministers objected when the epidemiologists’ proposal for keeping all primary school children closed at home for two weeks was discussed at cabinet, and in the end Prez Nik decided to impose the measure only in Limassol.

“It was a political decision,” said Tsioutis disingenuously when he heard the public outcry, dissociating the dream team from it, and undertaking a PR initiative for reopening the schools that came to nothing. If a political decision was not taken, all primary schools would be closed now on the epidemiological advice of the scientific team that wants to change the narrative of the pandemic.

 

KYPROULLA’S other deity, the mighty Odysseas, is turning out to be more than just a holier than thou, procedure-fixated number-cruncher. He also has artistic sensitivities as his report on The Scheme for Promoting the Audio-visual Industry of Cyprus, illustrated.

The report, which was released to justify the fuss Odysseas has been making about the funding by the state of big film productions starring major film stars, also dealt with the quality of the films being produced.

He wrote: “The cultural criteria do not ensure the contribution of the films produced to culture, nor to the quality of the outcome. Indicative of this is the fact that the two productions completed and distributed in 2020, secured very low rating scores in websites that deal with the subject.”

In future, film producers will have to submit their scripts to Odysseas for approval to ensure they meet with his high standards for cinema. Not that there would be any film producers coming to Kyproulla to make films again, after the shabby treatment of the Jiu Jitsu production company, which has still not been paid what had been agreed with the government, because of Odysseas’ scheme for killing the audio-visual industry.

 

PREZ NIK felt obliged to defend his appointment of peace process demolition man and retired ambassador Tasos Tzionis to the negotiating team, after the barrage of criticism his decision sparked, including from Disy chief Averof.

Nik said he appointed him because he wanted a diversity of opinion in the negotiating team. “I am interested in differences, which is why in the negotiating team there are not only people of one school, but anyone, who, through their thought process, could help us face any danger.” Was he referring to the danger of progress?

Asked if he embraced Tzionis’ views, he said: “I embrace the ideas of President Anastasiades whose aim is to contribute to the five-party conference, as he did at Crans Montana, so there could be the progress there was.” Has our man lost it? If collapse of the process is progress, he has chosen the right man to advise him.

Meanwhile, other members of the negotiating team are not thrilled by the arrival of Tzionis and lawyer, Achilleas Emilianides, son of labour minister Zeta, who made his ultra-patriotic name campaigning against the satanic plan in 2004. “We were making a lot of progress until these two arrived and turned everything upside down,” a member of the team said, not ruling out the possibility of resigning.

 

PHIL’S Sunday preacher, Michalis Ignatiou, lay into the Disy chief Averof last Sunday, using some offensive terms to describe him and accusing him of “losing his humanity in politics,” with the following story: “A party friend – who was destroyed by the government of Nicos Anastasiades – and whom he guided on how to win a contract, Averof abandoned in the most inhuman way. This was related to me by the deceived businessman before he died.”

The deceased businessman owned buses in Larnaca, which had the public transport contract, that last year was awarded to another company. Was Ignatiou suggesting that because Averof had not intervened to overturn the tenders’ procedure he had shown inhumanity? And being such a moral writer, should he not have mentioned that the deceived late businessman, whom he wanted favoured, was a close relative of his?

Perhaps not, as the story was intended to highlight Averof’s inhumanity, and cut him down to size for “arrows he was secretly directing at the foreign minister of the Cyprus Republic,” who has been Ignatiou’s political hero, long before he helped Ig’s niece get a job at the presidential palace.

 

I HEAR that the pious Limassol Bishop Athanasios was admitted to Nicosia General Hospital, a day after testing positive for the virus. He had been admitted to hospital, according to a bishopric statement, as a precaution to undergo tests, on the advice of his doctors. “He has mild symptoms and his health condition is stable,” it said.

It seems bizarre, that at a time when we are told on a daily basis hospital bed capacity is at its limits, they would admit someone with mild symptoms to undergo tests. Are overstretched hospitals now admitting everyone with mild symptoms for precautionary tests or just men with long beards?

 

CyBC’ opinion poll, released on Thursday, found that the for the majority of Cypriots the most important problem facing the country, was not the pandemic, not the Cyprob, but corruption. It was the choice of the 28 per cent of respondents.

In the breakdown of how the members of each political party responded to this question, we should note that of Diko supporters, only 19 per cent consider corruption to be the most important problem, much lower than the national average. This, despite the fact that their leader has been banging on every day about government corruption and the need to tackle it.

Akel, in contrast, in which there is party discipline among the sheep, corruption is considered by far the most important problem (35 per cent). Are the Dikheads ignoring their illustrious leader’s message? Or is it that they do not object to a bit of corruption, here and there? Being a patriotic party, however, its members consider the Cyprob a more important problem facing the country (26 per cent) than corruption.

 

THE OTHER great question asked by the poll was about the role of different countries and institutions in the negotiations for a Cyprus solution. Britain, of course, came top with 68 per cent saying it had a negative role and only 8 per cent saying it was positive. The real surprise though was that 36 per cent believed Mother Russia had a negative role, and to add insult to injury, the US was considered to have a positive role by more people (29 per cent compared to 25 per cent for Russia). What hope is there when people have lost their faith in Mother Russia?

 

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