By Constantinos Ioannou
Minister of Health
After a long period of imposed restrictive measures, people all over the world are trying to adapt to the new state of play created by the coronavirus pandemic. The gradual de-escalation of the worldwide health alert finds many countries mourning the loss of tens of thousands of lives. We feel proud in Cyprus because, as a society and as a state, we have managed to adequately shield our health system, give priority to the vulnerable groups of the population and minimise our losses.
The cooperation of the vast majority of the population with decisions taken by the state has greatly contributed towards the establishment of an exceptional epidemiological picture which helped Cyprus take the step out of the pandemic’s tunnel. This positive development is the result of an organized effort that got underway since the time the virus started spreading in China. The Public Health Services and the Epidemiological Surveillance Unit of the Ministry of Health promptly drafted and executed an action plan to promptly confront the crisis. The independent group of scientists I had personally called in to help out were and still are valuable collaborators in this endeavour. Once again, I would like to express gratitude to the members of the Scientific Advisory Committee for all the assistance they have provided and continue to do so.
The catalyst behind the successful management of various aspects of the pandemic was the contribution of many people who worked with self-sacrifice. We have repeatedly referred to doctors, both in the public and private sector, and to nursing staff whom we rightly described as front-line heroes. We thank them once again. But there are also others, the silent heroes, who gave their own battles from their fortresses and we owe them a big thanks from the bottom of our hearts.
Tireless soldiers were the OKyPY Ambulance Service staff, who, under the guide of Rianna Constantinou, had literally outdone themselves, proving what hard work and altruism actually means. Also remarkable was the contribution of a group of volunteers, led by Valentinos Silvestros, who undertook the painful task of informing positive-tested people that they had contracted the virus, and then continued with tracking their contacts. I know first-hand the meticulous work that was carried out, after all, it is one for which we have been praised from international organizations. We also need to thank all volunteers who, under the coordination of Commissioner for Volunteerism and Non-Governmental Organizations Yiannis Yiannakis, rushed to provide services to their country from various posts.
The management of coronavirus cases in public hospitals became more effective thanks to the operation of the Public Health Clinics, under the successful coordination of Olga Kalakouta and Denise Alexandrou, both of whom I thank very much. Also, thanks go to the notable services of doctors and other staff there. I would also like to thank Director of the Pharmaceutical Services Louis Panagi and his team, for promptly setting up mechanisms for people who needed to be quarantined, but also for staffing the 1450 call centre.
I would also like to thank the island’s Mental Health Services for setting up a mental health tele-care and support centre for those tested positive with the virus and for their relatives, but also for other people who needed support of this kind during the pandemic.
This ordeal has also highlighted the endless reserves of altruism in our society, expressed through the generous financial, material and moral support on offer these days.
Cyprus is now trying to return to normality in a positive and confident way. The health risk has not been totally eliminated and this is why we must all remain vigilant. After all, we have repeatedly said that we do not have the luxury of a setback. “We will Succeed” is the slogan we have adopted as a goal since the beginning of this crisis and it is not a hollow phrase. It is the promise we have made to each other, to our family, to our neighbourhood, to our society. It is the gift of life we have given to the people we love, the success of our big effort which continues to the end is what is at stake now. I am sure that with the gained additional experience and valuable knowledge, as well as vital competence at all levels, we will again do what we have to do to come out as victors of this ordeal.