19 Mar 2020, ‘Astra’ radio station
Intervention by the General Secretary of AKEL Andros Kyprianou
ASTRA: Today’s meeting of the National Council lasted five hours…
I consider it was quite an interesting and productive meeting. Five Ministers were present who told us what everyone was doing in their particular area of responsibility, and the President of the Republic briefed us about the government’s policies to tackle the issue of the virus spreading.
ASTRA: Were there any thoughts about banning traffic in general Mr. Kyprianou?
There are no such thoughts. Let me just say that it’s irresponsible for some people to come out and propagate things like that. They are simply aggravating panic in society and this is the worst thing that can happen. I address an appeal to society to comply with all that scientists are saying because I insist that on matters relating to the prevention, suppression and treatment of the virus, those who must have the first and decisive say are the scientists. And, it goes without saying that political decisions are made based on proposals prepared by scientists to manage the various issues. So I think it is irresponsible that these rumors are being spread, but at the same time it is far more important for each and every one of us to comply with all scientists are deciding. It is the best way to deal with the spread of the virus so that we can return to normality as soon as possible. There is no other way.
ASTRA: Not long ago we heard a nurse making a concerned cry in Paphos who complained that she didn’t have protection, that there wasn’t any a plan in place and medical items, that is, she is there with just a robe. And given that we also had an interview with Costa Nano, that at the end of the day the public hospitals which were supposed to be the first line of defense are lacking various means. I also have two messages form listeners here: “Tell comrade Andros that unanimity is all well and fine, but we also want constructive criticism.” Listening to all this what do you reply?
Let me just say that I raised all these issues at the meeting. First and foremost, as far as the Hospitals are concerned, I’ll say that the criticism we have made of the government over the last 7 years is very strong. We have our own views about the role of the Public Health system, I will totally agree about what you said with Costas Nano.
The statement made by French President Emmanuel Macron last Monday is indicative. I think everyone knows who Macron is, that is to say he represents one of the proponents of privatizations. And because of this crisis and the role that the public health system needs to play, he himself has acknowledged that it is now being proved just how important the public health system is. And he states we must revise our views on all these issues when we will have overcome the problem.
At the meeting I also raised the problem that has arisen with the three hospitals. I recalled what the Chinese had said in Italy when the virus had begun to spread so rapidly. The Chinese told Europe to provide protection to the medical and nursing staff. They also stated that they are precisely the ones who will help you overcome the problem. And it is of the utmost importance that these people are protected and empowered to do their job properly.
Now, I agree that these things must be said there and where demanded. But I do not think that right now the priority should be to criticize the government. The priority is to say these things, to try to exert pressure so that corrective action is taken and when the time comes we shall discuss all these issues.
ASTRA: So AKEL was saying all these things previously and exerting criticism. The point is that the policy being implemented was the government’s and that the public hospitals have been dismantled. People are calling us on the program and wish to congratulate AKEL for both its proposal to set up mobile volunteer teams and for all the help it is giving to the people.
Let me just say that we operate in the offices of the Central Committee, as well as the District Committee offices, teams of people who reply to phone calls from the people in an effort to help the people facing problems and difficulties.
We have contacted the Minister of Foreign Affairs and have helped about one hundred people trapped abroad so that all the arrangements are made for them to be able to return to Cyprus.
We have also prepared lists of approximately 350 people that we have put at the disposal of the Minister of Labour with regards our proposal for mobile teams in a program to provide home delivery for the elderly and vulnerable. It will start operating this coming Monday according to the briefing we had today and these AKEL militants, members and friends are at the disposal of the Ministry there and where the people need them. More specifically, this program is for the people who for various reasons will not be able to get out of their homes. You understand we are talking about the elderly, about people who for various reasons cannot move out of their homes to secure their medicines, food and other essentials.
ASTRA: We would like you to send a message to the people that they must restrict their movements and in fact stay at home. We see elderly people strolling in supermarkets, going to the bakery, and this thing if it grows will be a problem because we do not actually have much a lot of material, namely beds, respirators and other related things. There is concern. And we have to tell the people that if the crisis will deteriorate, we will be unprepared.
As you say, the possibilities of the public health system are restricted. We have been insisting for some days that the cooperation of the public sector with the private sector and with personal doctors should have existed much earlier. Today, a government decree has been issued in an effort on the part of the Ministry of Health I mean, to recruit private doctors and General Practitioners (GP’s) in an effort to provide support to public hospitals so that they won’t collapse because woe for our country if public hospitals will collapse.
It is therefore of the utmost importance how each of us assumes their responsibility to contribute towards combating this scourge. I don’t want to say that we are at war, nor will I say that we are dealing with an invisible enemy. I will say that as a country we are facing a big problem, and that we all need to cooperate on two levels.
One level concerns the prevention and suppression of the virus. To do this we must implement the measures being proposed by scientists. And my appeal to the people is that they should respect the decisions that are being approved.
The second is to address the economic problems that will arise. According to the Minister’s briefing, there are currently 120,000 people who are not working because the companies in which they worked have closed. You realize that this is causing a huge social problem. Many families will face tremendous difficulties and today we have precisely discussed measures in addition to those announced by the Council of Ministers yesterday. And I would like to express my satisfaction because all the proposals we have submitted so far, were taken into account by both the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Labour and Welfare who have briefed us of their thoughts on various issues. We expect these issues to be completed. We want to see what the contribution of the banks will be in this effort and when we will see this…
ASTRA: Because a listener is asking about the loan installments and I see that they have been ‘frozen’ for nine months, is that really the case?
It’s an issue which we have raised at the meeting, both the issue of the loans and the issue of rents. Rents for apartments, houses, factories, businesses. We expect a concrete proposal to be put before us and we would like to set this issue as well. We do not want to leave it to the goodwill of either the banks in one case, or to any property owners of houses, apartments and others in the other case.
We consider that we all have a role to play in this effort. We should respect the decisions that are approved.