The EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, and the Cyprus Minister for Health, Constantinos Ioannou, held an online chat with citizens on the topic “COVID-19 Pandemic: the next steps for Europe”. Discussions revolved around the management of the pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis, the possibility of a second wave, vaccines and EU coordination efforts to tackle the pandemic.
One participant commented that the EU needs to take coordinated actions on the economy and tourism in order to restart European economies after dealing with the first wave of the pandemic. Several participants were worried about the EU preparedness for a possible second wave after the summer. A participant pointed out that the good handling of the crisis by Cyprus was linked to the fact of it being an island, and expressed concerns about tourists bringing the virus to the country now that travelling has resumed.
Linked to this same issue, one participant questioned the feasibility of asking tourists to be tested within 72 hours before traveling, while another citizen from the Turkish-Cypriot community asked whether the EU could open control points so that people from communities can meet again.
Questions on the development of a vaccine and access to such a vaccine by Cyprus, as well as the reopening of schools, and the protection of personal data used to carry out epidemiological studies, were also raised by participants.
Responding to claims that Cyprus could manage the pandemic better than other countries because it is a small island, the Commissioner said that without the necessary measures, the situation could have been dramatic. "Precisely because Cyprus is a small island, the transmission of the virus within the community could easily get out of control, the healthcare system may not have worked as fast as it did," she stressed.
Commissioner Kyriakides referred to the successful efforts to contain the pandemic in Cyprus and called for vigilance to continue the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 until a vaccine becomes available. She said communicating with citizens is very important in order to have feedback for decision-making. She spoke about the multifaceted impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on everyone's lives and praised the way Cyprus managed the pandemic and the responsible stance of both the state and the citizens.
Responding to questions about where we stand with the development of a vaccine and what amount corresponds to Cyprus, Cssr Kyriakides said that these efforts have been endorsed by all the EU Member States and "as soon as we have a safe and acceptable vaccine, we can set it aside for the equal use of all the Member States."
Ms Kyriakides also had the opportunity to dispel various conspiracy theories about COVID-19 including the dangerous myth that the virus is linked to 5G networks. She warned against disinformation, stressing that the Commission is basing its decisions only on scientifically-established evidence, and urged citizens to check their sources. She also announced that she is in contact with social network platforms to contain the spread of fake news.
Mr Ioannou thanked the Commissioner, stressing the significant role played by the EU as regards the coordination of the EU Member States, from the guidance issued by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control to the first list of safe third countries. He spoke about the efforts to create a medical stockpile, stressing that the pandemic will end only when a vaccine is developed.