When the world was first struck by Covid-19, Cyprus had very few cases. We were patting ourselves on the back because while we did have some restrictions, the entire population could continue socialising and having fun. Tourists continued to arrive and all was ‘hunky dory’ as they say. Then we had a second wave. 

The numbers of cases soared to triple figures, literally overnight, and Cyprus went into a strict lockdown. We couldn’t go anywhere to socialise – all we could do is go for a drive in the car. All the hotels closed along with the restaurants and our beloved cafes. There was no evening entertainment for any age, the airports closed, and we found ourselves home-schooling and working from home.

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All of this lasted from the end of November until the end of December. It was very strict, but it worked. The numbers fell to under one hundred, and so our government decided to relax the measures slightly. Full lockdown became a partial lockdown, meaning we could go out two times per day and the restaurants and cafes could serve takeaway food and drinks.

Embracing nature

When the strict lockdown was in place it was easy to feel isolated but looking back there were plenty of positives about it. For me, the main one was that I felt much closer to nature. I remember driving in my car along the main tourist strip in Limassol and it was only me in my car going along this 25 km strip! I remember how eerie, and how surreal it felt with no cars or humans anywhere.

And even at home, there was no noise from the surrounding roads. I could hear the birds! I looked up into the palm trees lining the tourist route and there they were – chattering and singing away! They must have felt free, and I can honestly say, that lightened my mood. I used to drive there once every day to experience this positivity anew.

Returning to nature: walks were very popular in Cyprus too!

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Once our strict lockdown was partially lifted and we could go out for physical exercise twice a day if we wanted, I decided to keep this green, natural feeling. I drove to different villages each day and walked around them and around the wonderful green landscape that was growing abundantly due to the absence of human life. I came across some lovely roadside miniature churches, and fountains of blessed water. I met new people along the way who were also enjoying this activity – along with their dogs! I used to walk from village to village and back again because they are very close together.

Three things that never change

In Cyprus, three things never change, whatever happens in this uncertain world. First, there is the weather: it’s always pleasant and it never gets you down. Second, there is the beautiful ocean which will always be there. To be honest, I did miss the tourists here, but it was great to spend time walking along the beach, sometimes sitting on a bench watching the calm waves in the sunlight. Third, there is the friendliness of the locals. Even though they were suffering, they would always smile and nod in my direction.

In Cyprus, three things never change: the weather, the beach and the friendly people

Sometimes they would stop and talk to me, especially when the vaccines arrived in Cyprus! All the older and the vulnerable people have now been vaccinated with the AstraZenica vaccine from the UK. The government is currently vaccinating the 60-70 age group. It’s going at a good pace, and due to Cyprus’s small population, the government believes all of us here will be vaccinated by the middle to end of May.

The take-up rate for the vaccine is high, because although people here do have reservations – mostly about possible side-effects later in life and the high speed of its development – they want to take the vaccination to help their fellow Cypriots. And deep down, Cypriots continue to trust British medicine and I think this won’t change.

They will welcome back all our overseas foreign visitors once our hotels, restaurants and our wonderful cafes resume operations. Now, as I write, the government has announced that hotels are earmarked for opening on 15 May – to garner the British market – and restaurants and cafes set to open on 15 March.

Cyprus stands waiting to receive its overseas visitors once more.

About The Author

Helen Epaminonda

Helen left the UK to live in Cyprus in 1994. She married her Greek Cypriot husband and moved into the dream house that they had built. She has two children, whom she has raised in Cyprus. She has taught English Language/Literature to Cypriot children/adults, and is currently a freelance editor. She says: “It’s a slower lifestyle than the UK, with the added bonus of feeling safe. Cyprus is steeped in history and culture, and the British are always welcomed here. Cypriots are great people and I have many friends who are British and other nationalities too!”

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