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Prey to the winds of fortune

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A year ago today, Cyprus shut four crossings to the north to prevent coronavirus from reaching the Republic by land from Turkey via the Turkish occupied area while pondering to ban flights from Italy to stop infections coming in by air.

COVID-19 was just about getting a regular mention in news bulletins. Though it was a growing risk, officials saw the deadly virus’s spread as a distant problem.

The tourism industry had not yet begun, so we didn’t quite know what to do with flights from our best markets – Britain, Russia, Israel, Germany, and Greece.

It was also supposed to be a landmark year for the cruise sector, as several ships and seaborne voyagers would revisit our island.

At the time, business confidence, according to the University of Cyprus, had reached the lowest ebb in 12 years, before the sharp downturn that would come within a few weeks,

The European Commission issued a warning shot, telling us the Cyprus economic model was not sustainable.

We had placed too many eggs in one basket, especially with the fatal ‘golden passports’ scheme and the foreign-funded residential construction.

Tourism, said the EC, needed to diversify, reforms were slow, we had placed too much attention on the services sector, lack of diversity hurt the economy.

With the writing clearly on the wall, we were told the economic growth our administration had been boasting about was vulnerable to potential adverse external developments.

“To safeguard fiscal sustainability going forward, expenditure developments should be carefully monitored, especially in the light of possible future risks to the robustness of revenues.”

Since then, we seem to have masochistically enjoyed implementing Murphy’s Law to its fullest. Whatever could go wrong did go wrong, and we have been cautious to learn from our mistakes.

After seeing our tourism sector obliterated, two lockdowns later, there still is no roadmap to help us navigate out of the crisis.

The slow pace of the inoculation programme is dependent on the number of vaccines we receive. At the same time, restarting sectors seems to be driven by the whims of those with political influence.

Bragging we are better than others at national testing or “millions” of euros is pumped into the economy, with ruling Democratic Rally trying to take credit as if it singlehandedly secured funding from Brussels, shows we have learnt little.

Hotels, restaurants, and the entertainment sector, which we desperately try to promote overseas, have been left in limbo, with the latest relaxations punishing them again.

Instead, we should have had a stricter implementation of the restrictions and harsher punishment of those who ignore the rules, to the detriment of the law-abiding majority.

The club owner in Protaras, who violated the curfew, got away with it because of connections.

The lady who hosted a party and caused a cluster of infections got away because of connections.

The footballers and club managers who knowingly did not declare their cases, infecting others, also got away because of connections.

The government has now decided to hire about 260 unemployed to “implement COVID-19 restriction regulations”.

In other words, to check who is not abiding by the health protocols.

Should this not have happened months ago, or is it another pre-election gimmick to secure 260 more votes?

In a commentary, legendary newscaster Dan Rather wrote:

“Being prepared is one of those things we expect from the government.

“I have seen the change up close in Texas, back in Washington, and across much of the United States: politicians have gotten very good at planning for the literal and metaphorical ‘sunny day’. Not so much when it comes to the unexpected, even when the unexpected should have been expected.”

We must be prepared, plan ahead before we have another year of trepidation and off-the-cuff decision making.