Slowly but surely, Cyprus has returned to normalcy with the reasonable expectation that the vaccination of the majority of the population will create a reliable wall of immunity and thus, an effective shield against the virus. The hope is to eventually create an effective shield of immunity against the virus. On behalf of the Cypriot people, the Minister of Health, Constantinos Ioannou, has managed the unparalleled situation.
Cyprus’ strategy, one that has been adopted by other countries, has received praise from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). This strategy, which has required increased checks on the population, in schools, at shelters and other venues in order to identify and isolate cases, has thus far proven to be particularly effective. “We found the cases in time, tracked them, and located those they were in contact with in order to limit the spread of the virus,” added the 51 year old Minister of Health who is not from the field of politics, but is a business manager. Mr. Ioannou took office in March of 2018 with the monumental challenge of implementing the National Health System on June 1, 2019– one of Cyprus’ largest reforms to date. A few short months later, the pandemic exploded and Ioannou had to undertake the challenge of managing a huge burden that required both painful and unpopular decisions. “At the time, the sheer weight of responsibility hung heavily on me,” he says, regarding the difficulties and dilemmas caused by such an unprecedented situation. Though mistakes were made, Ioannou never denied them. In fact, in several cases he publicly apologised to the people, and asked for their cooperation and understanding. He formed a team of physicians, epidemiologists, virologists and other specialists to advise him on the management of the pandemic. A special commission of ministers was also arranged to analyse the data in order to shape the government’s strategy, applying the slogan, “we will succeed.”
One and a half years later, the epidemiological picture in Cyprus is nearly ideal, which allows for the lifting of restrictions, and a full return to economic and social activity. Cyprus, recording the fewest deaths and the least lockdowns to date, ranks at the top of E.U. countries. Cyprus’ vaccination strategy has prioritised vulnerable groups, i.e. older citizens with pre-existing health concerns. The vaccine was then administered based on age groups. This programme continues to run at a fast pace, and the goal for the Ministry of Health is to achieve a 65% vaccination rate of adults by the end of June. This is estimated to allow for a return to normalcy– a necessity for Cyprus’ tourism-based economy.
“If there’s one thing that this unprecedented health crisis has taught us, it’s that we shouldn’t make predictions about its end,” says Ioannou in response to when he believes the pandemic will come to an end. “Of course, things have improved since the vaccination programme began. Beyond that, much will depend on the behaviour of the virus, especially its mutations. This is what concerns the scientific community and that is where they focus their attention,” he states. The cooperation between the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport, and the managing company, Hermes Airports, ensures that strict measures are taken in both Larnaka and Pafos, where thorough checks are carried out on those travelling to Cyprus. Science has proven that vigilance, a high rate of new vaccinations, and individual adherence to social distancing and personal hygiene are the most powerful weapons society has to limit the spread of the virus, and to prepare for the eventuality of new, more contagious strains. “We are moving forward with optimism, and building the wall of immunity with vaccinations. Their benefits are already visible in the results,” Ioannou declares with confidence.