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Our View: Giving data is a much better way of persuading people than scare-mongering

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou at a news briefing

Health minister, Constantinos Ioannou may be on his way out, but he has not given up his crusade to have the whole population of Cyprus vaccinated. On a visit to Famagusta general hospital on Tuesday, he repeated for the nth time “the only way to prevent a new outbreak of the pandemic is to increase the vaccinations.” Ioannou was expressing his concerns about the doubling of the positivity rate and the number of cases returning to three-digit numbers.

His main worry is that the young are not getting vaccinated. Despite the vaccination portal being open to everyone over 18, from last Friday, there were only 3,000 appointments booked by Sunday and only another 300 by Tuesday. A health ministry announcement said that by the end of last week, only 25.8 per cent of people between 18 and 21 years old and 32.9 per cent of those between 20 and 29 years old had received one jab.

These are relatively low numbers for the age groups, considering there is availability of vaccines and 65 per cent of the Cyprus population have had at least one jab. It is strange, bearing in mind the big amounts of money spent by the government on advertising campaigns aimed at persuading the people to get vaccinated. It also used social media in order to get the message across to the young, who appear not to be taking any notice.

The rise in the number of cases has caused the authorities to revert to their scaremongering tactics, with the health ministry saying that we are facing the Delta variant. The ministry was seconded by Professor Petros Karayiannis, of the scientific advisory team, who speculated that the rise in cases could be attributed to the Delta variant. The number of cases was “shocking” and should be a cause for alarm, he said. If we relaxed too much “things could get out of control,” he warned on Wednesday. Karayiannis was not the only one to try to spread fear. Former member of the scientific team Professor Leondios Kostrikkis spoke about a possible fourth wave in September, given that all variants led to surges in infections.

Meanwhile, the health ministry has changed its policy of not mentioning whether positive cases were vaccinated. On Wednesday it informed us that more than 90 per cent of covid hospitalised cases were unvaccinated. It also said that 70 per cent of those who tested positive were below the age of 40, and four fifths of them had no history of vaccination. Giving data seems a much better way of persuading people to get vaccinated than scare-mongering which seems to be the preferred method of the scientists.

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