State health officials have denounced questions in the media over the handling of the coronavirus risk at airports, saying the image of the Republic of Cyprus was at stake.
The Health Ministry issued a statement on Thursday saying that appropriate protocols had been followed at Larnaca International Airport, in the two cases of suspected CoVid-19, in accordance with the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Earlier this week, Kathimerini Cyprus had published a story online reporting on critics, including professionals from the island’s medical community, who pointed out a number of weak spots in the line of defence against the Wuhan bug. The story was then picked up by Knews on Thursday.
Petros Agathangelou, the president of Cyprus Medical Association, had called for strengthening existing protocols, telling Kathimerini that airplane passengers sitting near a suspected carrier should have been taken to a special room and remain there until the tests on the woman came back hours later.
Agathangelou said some 20 passengers, who were sitting in close proximity with a suspected carrier, received breathing masks and were free to go, instead of “remaining in a designated area at the airport under the proper precautions until tests could come back either negative or positive.”
'Members of the media have to be extra careful when they express their view publicly' the health ministry said
The health ministry, which described the reports as “criticizing and questioning” the procedures, said other EU member states as well as China had congratulated Cypriot authorities for the way the Republic had been responding to the risks of the Wuhan bug.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou, who was in Brussels on Wednesday for an emergency meeting, called on the public not to panic over the virus, saying Cypriot delegates in the EU had received “positive feedback” from colleagues abroad.
The health ministry statement also said “the strictest protocols were being followed to the letter” and all necessary steps regarding the cooperation and coordination of state agencies had been taken.
“It is sad and disappointing that a domestic effort is being made to spread panic among members of the public,” the health ministry said, adding that “at the end of the day this is hurting the image of the Republic of Cyprus on a global level.”
Kathimerini, which is owned by the same media group that also owns Knews, had reported on the lack of a special room at the airport that could be used as a waiting area for passengers who may have contracted the virus, in case a test was positive.
“The objections in the medical community begin at the point where state authorities did not take into account the possibility that the tests might not have come back negative,” the report said.
State officials responded by calling on members of the media to reflect on their role and appreciate the weight their statements carry in public.
“They have to be extra careful when they express their view publicly,” the statement said.
Hermes, the company that manages the airports in Larnaca and Paphos, had pointed out possible areas that could be turned into special rooms for handling potential coronavirus cases, according to Kathimerini.