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COVID19: Coping with the day after lockdown

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As the lockdown eases, Cypriots must become accustomed to a new way of living in coping with the coronavirus pandemic with a heavy session of soul searching to come.

On a practical level, hot-blooded Cypriots should continue to keep their distance and emotions in check while masks will become part of our daily attire in the pre-vaccine coronavirus landscape.

Talking to the Financial Mirror, Cyprus Health Ministry advisor virologist Dr Peter Karayiannis, said the virus is here to stay for some time, at least until a vaccine is found, which could take a minimum of six months to a year to be developed.

“During that time, Cypriots will have to get used to a new way of life, which will include continuing to abide by social distancing guidelines,” said Karayiannis.

Commenting on how long the virus will be with us, Karayiannis said that if the virus is to behave as any other pathogen, then we will probably see it returning every winter, just like the flu.

“The only way we will be rid of the virus is if a vaccine to provide herd immunity or medication which will be the cure to the disease is developed. This could be at least six months away.”

On the bright side, Karayiannis spoke of a medical team at Oxford University, which has developed a vaccine which is about to go into the second testing stage.

As he explained, the vaccine was developed from an adenovirus, from which researchers removed a part of its RNA, and replaced it with a protein from the coronavirus.

“This vaccine will basically infect the host with part of the coronavirus, forcing the host to produce antibodies.

What we do not know is whether there will be enough antibodies created and whether they will offer a lifetime immunity to the coronavirus,” said Karayiannis.

He added that the virus in the vaccine will have a life circle which will allow it to infect one host, which means it will not be transmissible to other people.

He said this vaccine could be ready sometime in September and according to the developers, it will not raise bio-security issues.

The developers are planning to produce 1 million vaccines in the coming months.

No family visits

“But until then we will need to refrain from family visits, mass gatherings and even change the way we greet each other. Handshakes will be replaced with elbow greetings. Measures will not be withdrawn overnight in any case,” said Karayiannis.

Masks, as he said, will become part of our daily attire.

“People working in offices, going to the bank, to public services, all will have to wear masks”

On easing the lockdown, Karayiannis said that the reopening of restaurants, coffee shops and bars is something that will have to be discussed further down the road.

“If we have zero cases, then we might think of becoming a bit bolder. But in any case, people should hold back from organising events such as weddings and christenings. Sports events may get the green light sometime in June”.

Asked about when to expect airports to open, the virologist said this scenario would be even further down the line as it will depend on cases in Cyprus and in other countries.

“Maybe sometime in the summer, but we will have to be very cautious, maybe even asking for travellers to get tested before they hop on a plane to come to Cyprus”.

“Our whole way of living will be affected. We will certainly need to re-evaluate a number of our habits as a warm Mediterranean people.”

Embracing, hugging, and kissing relatives on the cheek or the welcoming handshake are all traditional greetings and show of affection that need to be dropped.

Soul searching

Psychoanalyst Georgia Nathanail said on the ‘day after’ it is not necessarily how we greet each other or show affection with physical gestures, such as a kiss or hug that will determine the quality of our future relationships.

“Most certainly the day after will bring along an amount of distrust and suspicion created on fear which flourished during the lockdown period.

However, what will play a decisive role in how human relationships will evolve from here is the quality of collective experiences,” said Nathanail.

She said that coming together and sharing experiences is what will do away with fear and mistrust.

During the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, she said, we all lost something.

“In order to come close to one another, we will have to take risks. We will have to give up a bit of our ego, the feeling of being safe.

If we are not ready to take the risk, then maybe we are not ready to meet one another once more.”

Nathanail explained that the question is not where or how the ‘day after’ will find us, but rather how we will define it and ourselves within the new reality.

“The question is whether we will choose the ‘day after’ to conform with the way we want to live, or whether we will sink into our misery, waiting to see which disease strikes us first”.

The psychoanalyst said that post-lockdown should be all about our sense of solidarity and togetherness.

“If we don’t come together and act with these values at heart to form a vision for the day after, then inevitably we will find ourselves with real distances between us”.

She argued that Cypriot society will have to take a hard look at itself and reevaluate its position on three different key issues such as public health, how we treat refugees, and work-related relations.

“We are the day after. The society in which we live is a reflection of ourselves, the level of our political and social consciousness, the criteria we have developed for analysis and intervention.”

Nathanail said staying at home offered the opportunity to reassess the life choices we have made.

“This is important because it is likely to bring us closer to the question of how we really want to live, both on a personal but also collective level.”