By Major General Rob Thomson
Sovereign Base Areas Administrator and Commander British Forces Cyprus
This fight against COVID19 is far from over but, following the President’s speech on Wednesday, it’s a good moment to take stock of what we have achieved together and what remains to be done.
COVID-19 respects neither boundary nor nationality so it is important that we have faced this unprecedented challenge together. That is why it has been essential that here in the Bases we have been ‘in step’ with the Republic. Being aligned has been a clear priority for me as Administrator and we will remain in step as measures are gradually relaxed – ready to tighten them again, if needed, to protect us all.
We have adopted the same measures as you have all lived by, including the same penalties for offenders, and our community has been rigorous in complying with them.
I am new here but, six months in, I have been repeatedly struck by the excellent support we have received from Cyprus, principally from the Ministry of Health but also from our local Cypriot communities with whom we live on this beautiful island.
Thank you – to the bottom of my boots. Your laboratories have completed over 400 tests for us, returning only nine positive cases of COVID-19 on the Bases – the last one on 1st April. All experienced only minor symptoms and remained in their homes whilst they were unwell. Thankfully they have now all recovered.
Sadly, this is not true of everyone who has become ill with COVID-19, and my deepest sympathies go out to all those across the island who have lost loved ones to this terrible disease.
We have been cooperating very closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health, sharing ideas, health statistics and best practice every week. Our Police forces have worked tirelessly side by side to guard our collective safety and security – joint patrols have visibly reinforced the excellence of the cooperation.
We have, of course, had to continue our operational work. It is important because it contributes to the security of Cyprus and of our continent of Europe as well as the UK.
Many people may know that we are privileged to employ nearly 1000 Cypriots from both communities of the island on the Bases. We are very grateful, and I salute their commitment to supporting us in these difficult times. No-one has lost their job and we have retained the whole workforce on full pay, even if some have had to shield at home because they are vulnerable to COVID-19. A majority are working from home and we are adopting lots of new ways of working, many of which will be continued long-term.
As I close, let me commit to staying in step with you all as we enter the next phase of this campaign against COVID-19 – this challenge is far from over and we must continue to tackle it together. It is no sprint; it is a marathon. We, in the Bases, are at your shoulder, as a trusted partner and close, vigilant friend.
‘We will do this together’.