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‘Covid-recovery’ needs safer hands

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Photo opportunities at the launch of the nationwide vaccination programme this week had four different stories to tell over as many days.

And a lesson to be learnt for those who govern, that transparency and respect for public information have become a necessity.

DAY 1: Saturday started with a rather muted celebration at Larnaca airport, where the first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine ‘Cominarty’ was flown in, offloaded from a plane, and unceremoniously put on a commercial container truck as if taking tomatoes to the local market.

There was no comment or explanation about how the 9,750 vaccines were safe to be transported in normal weather conditions and how they would not spoil until their final storage in Nicosia, perhaps because no-one had the answer.

This already raised the first suspicions of the efficacy of the jab, fuelling the naysayers and mask-deniers.

The day was saved by comments from EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, who, by the way, said she will wait her turn and be vaccinated upon returning to Brussels.

DAY 2: On Sunday, what should have been a ‘good news’ day for elderly people and frontline nurses and doctors, was hijacked by senior civil servants who wanted their 15 minutes of fame on national TV.

The fact that a Health Ministry spokesperson said there was no protocol for non-essential officials vaccinated on the first day says a lot about how our health system is run and who dictates rules unto their subordinates.

DAY 3: On Monday, it was President Anastasiades’ turn who, as the leader of the nation had to set a good example. But preventing TV cameras from recording this historic moment during a live broadcast, and providing the images in a recording, albeit moments later, added to suspicions with conspiracy theorists now saying the president did not receive his jab and got a placebo instead.

Having entered the health centre with a mask, the president made matters worse when he exited without a mask, fuelling the criticism of naysayers who now argue, “if the president’s not wearing one, why should I?”

The well-scripted comments by his PR team were quickly forgotten as the president has on many occasions not realised the importance of wearing a mask at all times despite keeping a safe distance of two metres from cameras and microphones.

DAY 4: On Tuesday, Archbishop Chrysostomos II deserved a medal for good behaviour, as he kept his mask on throughout his visit to the same health centre as the president, and instead of blurting out well-rehearsed soundbites for the cameras, opted to be practical and urged the public to be careful and stick to health rules.

“With the vaccine, we will have some safety, but we have to be strict, to stick to the measures introduced by the government, because if we don’t, we will be in trouble,” the archbishop said.

He added “the virus does not discriminate between the young and the old, so we must all be careful and especially those of us who have some other health issues,” referring to his health.

The head of the Church of Cyprus was also critical of his priests who often do not stick to the rules of distancing and personal hygiene, the criticism we have never heard the president or any of his cabinet members make towards other officials.

This poor handling of the ‘Covid recovery’ image needs to improve.

Just because the vaccine has arrived, does not mean we can become complacent.

Health experts have warned that January could be deadlier than December, by far the worst month since pandemic started accounting for more than half of the COVID-19 deaths to date.

The confusion among the public over the unconvincing measures has not been handled well either, politicians systematically sideline the experts to prevent a public uproar during the holidays, especially with the next elections just five months down the road.

As a result of this inconsistency, the situation is now critical.

Those who call themselves leaders should do just that and lead the nation out of this chaos. Otherwise, they will have nothing left to lead in the New Year apart from their exit from politics.