By Roger Bara…
Squeaky bum time for both Jersey and Northern Cyprus
A week ago, the following article of mine was published in the Jersey Evening Post, for which I write a fortnightly column
As I assembled these words, the two islands on which I’ve lived for most of my adult life, were about to embark on what I suggested would be their most challenging and nerve-wracking period of time since the pandemic arrived earlier this year; the opening of their respective borders.
Despite having vastly different methods of dealing with Covid-19, Jersey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus are about to open their borders at around the same time. And the response of both sets of inhabitants seems polarised. Many will be delighted at the opportunity to get back to some form of normality, while others are horrified at the potential for the virus to regain a stranglehold.
Here in the Mediterranean, every single ex-pat to whom I have chatted, and indeed many locals, including the medical profession, want the borders here to remain fully closed. Period. Of course, they know that can’t happen but consider for a moment why they feel like this. We locked down almost straight away – no fuss – and I mean completely locked down – the airport and sea ports all shut, and the borders with South Cyprus closed. At the same time, the government here delivered strong curfew instructions, which, if ignored, were dealt with by inflicting severe penalties. It worked. While Jersey can boast this week of having no positive cases, (very well done by the way), as at 1st July North Cyprus had not had one for almost 80 days. Why spoil that almost perfect record by allowing the virus back in?
We all know why. Both governments have to balance keeping residents safe with simultaneously having to allow, somehow, the horribly bruised and battered local economies to have the opportunity to prosper again. What an absolutely horrendous decision to have to make. Just think – unless we lockdown forever, some people will die. It’s gross. A woman on a ferry from Turkey to Cyprus, was reported to have tested positive on arrival. There were 350 people on the ferry. The consequences would have been enormous. She was subsequently found to be negative. The lesson though is clear – one mistake, that’s all that’s needed.
What are the islands doing about it? Jersey’s answer to protection appears to be testing on arrival, with no need to isolate, and no follow-up test.
Allow me to tell you what will happen here if you fancy a trip to come and see us at Chez Bara. As you will have to travel via the UK, which our government deems particularly unsafe, you simply won’t be allowed to travel here. But when they eventually allow you in, you will, until further notice, have to serve several days in a government-controlled quarantine centre. A nice hotel, but you won’t be a tourist. You will be a prisoner. Not allowed out of your room, no one allowed in. If you don’t like the food left outside your door, tough. No reduction of sentence for good behaviour. I know this because I am in regular contact with a group of people who, having been stuck in the UK for months, finally got back to their island of residence a week ago on a special repatriation flight. This is how it is. And, believe it or not, they are not complaining. They will be back in their home in a few days, and safe. For now.
It’s not difficult to image some Jersey residents, reacting to Wednesday’s JEP headline “No active Covid cases for the first time since lockdown”, thinking: “OK, those rules and regulations still in operation are not necessary; after all the deprivation, let’s party!” Except, of course, as most will be aware, the virus has gone nowhere. It is still effectively all around us. Waiting for a mistake, waiting for any opportunity to spread.
I think residents of both islands can be reassured somewhat that no-one is likely to travel if they are sick. You don’t generally travel if you’re ill. Yes, they might have the virus and not know about it, but that should be picked up on arrival and dealt with. As the World Health Organisation says, we need to learn to live with this virus until such time as a vaccine is available, and goodness knows when that will be.
But in the meantime, we all wait with bated breath to see what will happen when the influx of visitors start. Both islands should be rightly proud of their zero positive cases right now. But the sad fact is that we all know that someone will slip in with the virus undetected, and we all know that not every resident, on either island, will stick to the rules and regulations that still apply. And that means only one thing – that zero figure won’t be zero for very long. Squeaky bum time indeed.
On 9th July 2020, the TRNC learned at its cost that new COVID-19 infections are never far away!