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Government losing argument over Astrazeneca

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COVID cases going in the wrong direction since lockdown measures were eased leaves the government in a quandary about what happens next.

With the education system going back to class, the hospitality sector catering to outdoor customers and a less restrictive curfew regime means more people will mingle.

Increased social contact is a fuel that drives the pandemic to rip through society and overload our hospitals.

Opening up society, no matter how restrained, comes with a price tag.

A trip to a restaurant, coffee shop, gym workout, supermarket venture is all soaked in risk.

Allowing more freedoms invariably means that more people will catch the virus as they mingle and socialise.

Society cannot be kept locked up forever, but it must be understood that we are only out on parole and that any misbehaviour will get us sent home again.

Easing lockdown measures were supposed to be accompanied by a vigorous vaccine rollout in a race against time to get ahead of the COVID curve.

Europe did us few favours in bungling the vaccine distribution across the bloc despite messages of reassurance and social media sugar-coated slogans.

Countries who played by rules in waiting for the EU to get its act together suffered from inadequate vaccine coverage while a third wave batters parts of weary Europe.

Cyprus was one of those members waiting with a clipboard by an empty warehouse when Brussels didn’t deliver on time; it blamed Big Pharma for reneging on the contract it failed to read.

And when the vaccine cavalry did come charging through the gates, the public wasn’t too fussed about having an AstraZeneca jab.

Seeing as the government built its vaccination strategy on piles of AZ doses, its inoculation plans went up in smoke.

During the COVID emergency, the government chorus on tackling the pandemic has started to sing out of tune.

Not only has it lost the song sheet but blaming the public every time something goes wonky has become tiresome.

The Health Minister chastising people for not following the rules smacks of a government that has failed to get its message across.

Encouraging people to get vaccinated, then blaming the vaccination portal crashing on a stampede of users trying to access the system provides a certain symmetry to Cyprus’ predicament.

After realising, the public had lost confidence in the troubled AZ vaccine, the government wheeled out its ministers this week to get the jab done.

Again, the message was broadcast that not taking the vaccine poses a greater risk than taking it.

The President urged Cypriots not to be picky with their choice of vaccine (a luxury for many countries) as they all save lives and help the country get back on its feet.

It is challenging to persuade Cypriots once panic has set in and judgment passed.

The government should have sensed the mood changing after other EU countries had started to question AZ.

It should have left nothing to chance by making people aware how rare getting a blood clot of the type that is linked to AstraZeneca and the Janssen vaccine.

The Health Ministry could have enlightened us on how many people have reported any side effects after taking the vaccine, for starters.

Taking any vaccine has a risk but catching the virus is much higher and more dangerous.

Freedoms compromised

Without a vaccinated population, there can be no going back to normal; our freedoms will always be compromised.

Cyprus infections are worrying in the lead up to Greek Orthodox Easter when Cypriots usually flock to church and entertain during the holiday.

If the outlook grows bleaker, the government will be faced with some excruciating choices.

Although it is unlikely to ease more restrictions, the government might have to shut Cyprus for Easter as hospital beds diminish.

A painful decision under any circumstances but coming weeks before an election would be a political hammer blow.

From any vantage point, the ruling party will suffer from voter frustration at what COVID has done to their lives.

Nevertheless, the government is not in a popularity contest; it is responsible for protecting the public and paving the way out of this crisis.

First, it needs to adopt a savvier approach to convincing the public all vaccines are safe – our resurrection depends on it.