Mask Salesmen Rejoice! No shopping, banking or visiting hospital without one… oh, and we’re allowing some people from the UK to come…

Get yours today! or you might pay a €300 fine!

The announcement of the decision to allow visitors from the UK has been previously telegraphed, but following a healthy dose of back patting, we then discover a further example of the Cyprus Government’s knee jerk actions on COVID-19.

As of midnight tonight, to quote the press release from the Cyprus Government “It becomes mandatory for the general population to use a mask indoors in crowded places (i.e. shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, hospitals, churches, etc.). In case of violation, the penalty is €300.”

Now I am not saying that requiring masks in public crowded places in inherently a bad policy. Clearly Corona cases are on the increase, and there has been what can only be described as a pretty lacklustre programme of “public education” on the steps for the prevention of spreading and catching the viral nasty.

What I am saying, however, is that of all the countries which I am monitoring the Corona response, Cyprus, and Cyprus alone, has the distinction of having the least transparency, and being the most ineffective, in the communication of “potentially planned responses” to situational changes in the pandemic.

When a Government feels that it is necessary to announce a policy, which they have not previously stated would be implemented if certain conditions are met, and which they state comes into force “tonight”, it is a clear sign that they are being reactive not proactive, and clearly don’t have a plan.

Much like in football, if a team manager walked into the locker room and said “oh, just go out and play your best… I don’t know who will play where, or what strategy we will use, get out there and win!” it is unlikely that he will be lauded as the next Klopp!

The statement also outlines that “Checks and surveillance of companies, catering establishments and other establishments will be intensified by the relevant authorities under instructions for show zero tolerance.”

This is of course, somewhat ironic, given the order to show zero tolerance. I recently attended Paphos Central Police Station, twice, over a period of approximately 12 hours.

When I attended, as I am sure the CCTV will attest, the “antiviral” container (which was not actually at the entrance) was itself empty. The next day when I attended, I saw the Inspector who unlike his rabble of rather rude and unhelpful Police Officers who I had dealt with the day before, actually listened to the complaint.

We checked the pump at the lift, and then another pump, and it became clear that both were empty, at that time as well.

Now the Inspector took it in good stride, and I am sure he has acted on it appropriately. I cannot look into the heart of men, so whether the Inspector also felt the urge to bellow at the Autistic member of the public who visited his establishment, who was not under arrest, that he should “sit down!”, and “leave now!” when told things not to his pleasing to his ear, I do not know. All I can say is that he seemed professional, competent and is a credit to the Police Service, an opinion which sadly I do not hold for his colleagues I met the evening before when I tried to raise a serious criminal complaint which they refused, outright, to even take note of, that being the Police officer at the Desk who believes that a warm welcome is displayed by the deployment of drill sergeant style screaming to sit down when you walk in, the Police officer who I then dealt with who professed to have been trained in Autism and who displayed precisely no knowledge of any of his purported training, or the sergeant who I also met, who made up for his shortcomings in knowledge of the the basic laws of Cyprus and the Cypriot Constitution, with his blatant disregard of the latter.

Sadly, I doubt it will be the Inspector who will be the one visiting establishments with zero tolerance. We must brace ourselves, as a public, for a further round of heavy handed enforcement, of policies which those who should have made a plan and communicated it in advance, decided it would be better to communicate on a Friday afternoon, prior to a weekend, effective on the stroke of midnight.

Cyprus loves comparing the Covid-19 response here to that of the UK. So let’s compare. In the UK, every ad space the Government can buy online is purchased with public information notices to tell the public what is happening, and to remind about Social Distancing. The Police have been criticised when they were heavy handed by the press. A major Police Station which did not have hand sanitiser in the pumps at the door for over 12 hours, would amount to questions being asked to the Prime Minister.

Did every Police Officer walking in the door that evening, and then the morning of the next day all forget to sanitise their hands? Clearly so. They were empty, and remained empty, and I somewhat doubt that it is the case that entire containers holding over a litre each were replaced, and then used up entirely again, and it was just “damn bad luck” that both times I attended they were Bingo. If this did magically happen, the CCTV footage of Police Officers coming into the building, and performing a full surgical scrub of their hands to use up the containers, would be a smash hit with obsessive compulsives everywhere. With the cancellation of the TV show COPS, surely there is a niche for filling the TV slot with “Paphos Police – Fighting Grime all the Time!”

All humour and complaints about the Police Service aside, the fact the Police didn’t notice their sanitiser was all gone, and the abject lack of communication in advance from the Government on actions which might be taken, and failure to notify changes to policies in advance, all points inevitably to the true failure of this administration, being a failure to communicate social distancing and hygiene standards to the entire populous at large, and to do so constantly, relentlessly, and efficiently.

When we all face another major lock down, and the added financial hardship that it causes, remember that if the Government had actually done what other competent Governments had done, communicating and encouraging appropriate behavioural changes things might be better, and we might at least be able to predict what will happen. Rather they prefer resorting to the arbitrary invoking of a raft of poorly communicated, draconian diktats, with zero tolerance, heavy handed enforcement, being metered out by a group of individuals who, by their own actions, it is evident clearly (from my experience at least) haven’t collectively been following the laws they are tasked to enforce.

I believe that many Police Officers are good; many are helpful, polite and are doing their best to serve the public. However, when the Government has no plans which it can explain in advance, and makes rules up “on the fly” without any real public scrutiny, ordering the Police to enforce, the incompetent, power hungry and morally devoid elements of those who are meant to enforce the rules, if we look at the lessons of history, are the ones who exhibit a zeal to abuse the public to which the Gestapo would be proud.

So, other than the problem that changing the rules (rules with serious penalties attached) without notice is sure to gives certain (unfavourable) elements of the Police a greater levels of self satisfaction and pleasure through allowing them greater opportunity to abusing their powers, even if you are one who thinks that allowing this kind of abuse is acceptable for the greater good, there is another, simpler reason communication by Government is important.

A Government which treats the people like idiots and refuses them the information which they base their decisions on cannot be trusted. To be clear, we are still looking for answers to certain statements made by Government Scientific Advisors regarding scientific research which the scientists who did the research have told us that their research did not say or support. Sadly, they still have not clarified why they made statements regarding research on COVID-19 which expressly differed from those of the Scientists who did the research.

Good luck out there.

As a journalist, of course, everything has a silver lining. We look forward to a stream of stories coming in about individuals getting bullied, abused and threatened.

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