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Our View: Government is finding it hard to give up its authoritarian powers

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File photo: Larnaca airport

During the pandemic, the government would often defend the restrictions it was imposing by citing what was happening in other EU countries. This was used as emphatic proof that it was doing the right thing and that measures, which were taken on the advice of the scientific team of doctors and epidemiologists, were no more drastic than they were in other European countries.

The health ministry can no longer use this argument because most EU countries have lifted all restrictions. A few weeks ago, when journalists pointed out to the health minister Michalis Hadjipantelas, that Cyprus lagging behind the rest of the EU in the lifting of measures, he came up with the laughable response that measures were still in force in China, the country with the most Draconian covid measures.

On Monday the health ministry issued a reminder that the wearing of a facemask indoors remained mandatory for everyone over 12 years of age, and this included airports. It was a warning for people that thought Cyprus would follow the recommendations of two European agencies (the ECDC and EASA) for the abolition of mask-wearing on flights and in airports from May 16.

The ministry said anyone not wearing a mask in the airport was liable to be fined €300. Would this apply to tourists arriving in Larnaca or Paphos without a facemask, or will one be given to them as they leave the plane? And will they have to wear one in their hotel, or will they be exempted because they are on holiday?

Why is the government persisting with these absurd and repressive protocols, micromanaging our lives and pretending they are doing us a favour by returning our liberties in small doses? On Monday the health ministry announcement said that people from different households can travel in the same car as long as they were all wearing face masks!

This could easily have been taken as a joke, but it betrays the authoritarian mentality which the government is holding on to on the pretext that is protecting public health. What it is really doing is oppressively micromanaging our lives. A couple of days ago, it generously said it would allow more fans into the GSP stadium, than the 80 per cent capacity limit stipulated by the protocols, to watch next Wednesday’s cup final. Making this allowance proves that the 80 per cent limit is unnecessary, but the government refuses to surrender the control it has taken over our lives. And it blames this state oppression on the scientific team, which seems happy to have this role.

European recommendations for the suspension of the mandatory use of the face mask would be evaluated at a later stage by the health ministry in consultation with the scientific advisory team, said the ministry’s statement. There is no justification for consulting the scientific team. What is needed now is a political decision, which the government refuses to take, because it wants to preserve the illiberal regime it imposed more than two years ago.

 

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