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image depicting the coronavirus and a women wearing a mask

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The Coronavirus has arrived in Cyprus. It may have looked like we were going to be bypassed but when you think about it, it’s an epidemic just waiting to happen and no nations are going to get bypassed.

There is a large population of British expats over here in Cyprus. The British are renowned for their standoffish aloofness and stiff upper lips. We’re not terribly good at being touchy-feely. So you would be forgiven for thinking this aloof attitude will will help a lot of us not to catch the virus from others. Of course that’s just a stereotype and probably less true than you may think. Besides, no amount of attitude or stiff upper lips on display are going to help you when you grip a door handle that has the virus on it. Let’s face it, if there is one thing we Brits do better than any other nation it’s form a queue, and when Mr. Blogs behind you sneezes all over your back, then you can guess the outcome.

So here we are, a tiny island of less than a million souls, locked in with a virus about to do its rampant best. Am I Worried? Actually no, I’m not. Am I going to take precautions. I already am by washing my hands more and only going out when absolutely necessary. I don’t have a mask and have no intention of buying one even if there were any left. I know full well that only a hermetically sealed mask with excellent bio-filters will do the job well enough to stop a virus. A paper based mask held in place by rubber bands is neither use nor a fashion statement, it’s a waste of time.

So, here’s what we know of the arrival of the virus. A doctor at the Nicosia General Hospital arrived home to Cyprus from a trip to the UK. Apparently the doctor is said to have told the news media that he had no symptoms upon his return. However the government health ministry is disputing this account and told Politis radio that the doctor did have symptoms from the first day of his return, but neglected to self-isolate himself. He had been tested but is said to have resumed his duties on Wednesday 4th March until the following Monday when his results came back positive. In other words nobody has any idea what actually transpired.

It just so happens my wife and I were in that hospital the very day the doctor started back at work. Though we were there for only a couple of hours, who knows who or what we came into contact with. Yesterday it was announced that the department the doctor was in has been closed for a deep clean and all visitors to the hospital have been banned. There is a feeling of closing the gate after the horse has bolted to this case.

On Tuesday, yesterday, new guidelines were issued for travellers to Cyprus. These guidelines, as far as UK travellers are concerned, were something of a shock to those arriving at both Cyprus airports yesterday. The guidelines set by the ministry of health imposed compulsory self-isolation for a two week period for people arriving from the UK. Just bear in mind the UK is Cyprus’ biggest source of tourist revenue and tourism is Cyprus’ main source of income. This meant anyone arriving for a two week holiday would be expected to spend those two weeks in isolation. However, this statement was revoked hours after being announced on Tuesday. A revised guideline was issued and travellers from the UK would now not have to self-isolate when they arrive.  I wonder if the Cyprus tourist authority may have influenced this about turn, but who knows, maybe it’s just the cynic in me.

So far, there is an air of confusion, which I suppose is inevitable when a potential viral epidemic has just arrived on your doorstep and you aren’t sure what to do about it.

It’s serious stuff and to be sure we are not in this on our own. But put the current situation in perspective. On average 25,000 to 50,000 people a year die from the flu on a global scale, and very few people wear masks and self-isolate on an annual basis. The best advice is don’t panic, steer clear of large crowds, stay at home as much as you can, wash your hands regularly and don’t hug, kiss, touch or get close to anyone. A stiff upper lip and an air of aloofness may actually be a very good idea it seems.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2020




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