COVID19: Circuit breaker lockdown should do the trick

3 mins read

Where Cyprus once seemed assured in its handling of the pandemic, cracks are appearing in its strategy to contain a much nastier second wave of coronavirus.

There’s an air of trepidation and nervousness about being overwhelmed by the unprecedented number of daily COVID-19 cases.

The public health system survived the first battering relatively unscathed, but more than a third of all new cases have occurred this month.

Infection rates have gone through the roof, especially in Limassol where its averaging 180 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

Not so long ago, 20 per 100,000 would have been unthinkable.

Maybe Cypriots had a false sense of security after the first wave barely touched the sides. This time around COVID is banging down the door.

There is pandemic fatigue – Hands, Face, Space doesn’t do the trick anymore.

People aren’t prepared to curb their behaviour for the long-term in this fight to the death.

Coronavirus is not going anywhere but simply waiting for us to relapse to type in our social behaviour.

Nobody is washing their hands for 20 seconds, keeping their distance on a night out or properly covering their face.

Arguably, the government has also let the situation slide to the point of rule-breaking regularity.

When the clusters were growing in Larnaca and Famagusta in September, warning signs should have been going off.

The public wasn’t listening or caring too much about the virus.

Then Limassol and Paphos exploded this month with the authorities scrambling for the damage-limitation manual.

It is not good enough to simply have a press conference while issuing confusing and complex decrees about what can and can’t be done.

Cyprus can no longer be considered – as it had been – a safe destination for tourists as the rate of COVID cases soars.

It is now doing worse than countries like Greece, Sweden and Germany, although, thankfully, deaths are still relatively low at 25.

Where is the president leading the way to guide the nation in what is a health emergency?

Daily televised briefings of government scientists should also return to reassure and persuade the public to conform.

And why has the government not taken a clear, loud stance on telling people to work from home if they can?

The office is a major source of COVID-19 infections.

Lives at risk

Lives are at risk, as is the survival of the state health system that is beginning to feel the brunt of the surge in cases.

Cyprus has made mask-wearing outdoors compulsory while imposing a night-time curfew in Limassol and Paphos in a bid to buffer a larger second wave.

A raft of measures is in place to tackle the corona storm – some are national others are locally enforced.

Confusion over whether you need to wear a mask going for a walk with the dog or at the beach is not going to encourage compliance.

Social and household gatherings are limited to 10, but only six can be served at a restaurant on one table.

Walking past most bars, cafes and restaurants at the weekend you will find scant evidence of social distancing.

Cyprus has seen daily infections rise to record three-digit figures after keeping numbers low for most of the summer.

Experts are not sure why the surge is in Limassol and Paphos, there is nothing that sets these areas apart from the rest.

What is happening in Limassol can easily be duplicated elsewhere.

This is why the government should take the tough decision to place the entire island under an 11 pm to 5 am daily curfew with all pubs, bars and restaurants closing at 10.30 pm.

Infections are seriously high, taking Cyprus into unchartered waters – there is no silver bullet to stop this pandemic.

It feels like Cyprus is throwing half-measures at the problem, a far cry from the decisiveness demonstrated during the outbreak in March.

Nicosia showed no hesitation in slamming the brakes on then, it should do so now.

The government mostly kept a lid on the pandemic by introducing an early lockdown and draconian curfew in March that was gradually eased after two months.

Statistics don’t’ lie, what they are telling us is that drastic action is needed.

Cyprus needs to introduce a short, sharp, shock – a circuit breaker lockdown to stem the spread of the virus.

Forget the myriad measures and decrees, a fixed-period lockdown is needed for people to take this seriously.

Shut everything down for a couple of weeks to smash the chains of transmission. That’s the only rule people will understand.

We need to douse the raging COVID fire before winter wraps itself around us.

Cases are spiralling at a time of glorious weather with everybody outside, not locked indoors with windows closed.

Something has to be done to save lives and the health system.

Understandably, the government is keen to avoid another harsh lockdown regime with the fragile economy already in recession. It’s a hard sell.

But we are in a far worse situation than before; the government needs to show it has an exit strategy, not a collection of knee-jerk reactions.