Cyprus will reopen its airports for flights from 19 countries on June 9 and will allow hotels to reopen as of June 1, Transport, Communications and Works Minister Yiannis Karousos said on Friday.
Restart of flights is the most important step in stage three of easing restrictions following a total lockdown imposed in March as the coronavirus crisis worsened.
Karousos said that the Council of Ministers approved the lists of a total of 19 countries from which flights will be allowed on June 9, and decided to restore air connectivity in two phases.
“The first phase starts on June 9 and the second one on June 20, with different rules applied to people coming from each of the two groups of countries,” Karousos said.
He said the two groups were defined according to their coronavirus epidemiological status. Group A includes Greece, Malta, Bulgaria, Norway, Austria, Finland, Slovenia, Hungary, Israel, Denmark, Germany, Slovakia and Lithuania. Group B includes Switzerland, Poland, Romania, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic.
The minister said that other countries will be added to the two lists depending on the development of their epidemiological status.
Karousos said that people from countries on both lists will be allowed to board a plane only after presenting a coronavirus negative certificate of a test made within 72 hours before the flight.
Cypriots and other people permanently residing in Cyprus returning to the island will be allowed to make a COVID-19 test after arrival and will be quarantined until results are returned.
People arriving from category A countries will not be required to have a test certificate after the start of the second phase on June 20, but those coming from category B countries will still be required to have a test certificate.
Karousos said people who come from countries which are not listed in groups A or B will not be allowed to enter Cyprus, unless they have a Cypriot citizenship or are permanent residents of Cyprus or have a special permit. They will be still required to have a test certificate.
In all cases, the cost for the test will be borne by the passengers.
Karousos also said that hotels will reopen on June 1 for local people before receiving guests from other countries as of June 9. Detailed protocols as to the behavior of tourists in hotels, on beaches and during tours will be issued.
Also on Friday, the authorities issued rules for the reopening of organized beaches as of Saturday, which provide for a distance of four meters between umbrellas, and only two beds under each umbrella. Beach-goers must have their own towels on their bed.
Egypt, Cyprus leaders discuss cooperation, regional issues
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi discussed on Friday with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades means of promoting bilateral cooperation and several regional issues, the Egyptian presidency office said.
In a phone conversation, the two leaders talked about the efforts in fighting COVID-19 and containing its health, economic and social impacts, said Bassam Radi, spokesperson of the presidency, in a statement.
The talks also touched upon regional issues of common concerns such as securing the energy in eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The Cypriot president hailed “the vital role and the political weight of Egypt in maintaining the regional stability,” reiterating the European Union‘s appreciation for Egypt’s efforts in achieving stability, fighting terrorism and combating illegal immigration.
Radi added that the two leaders also exchanged views on the recent developments in Libya and agreed on intensifying efforts for settling the ongoing conflicts through political solution.
Cyprus’ economy to suffer “serious recession”: central bank governor
All previous projections on Cyprus’ economy have been thrown “upside down” by the coronavirus pandemic crisis as the economy is expected to undergo a “serious recession” in 2020, said Constantinos Herodotou, governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC), on Thursday.
“The economy‘s prospects for 2020 and afterwards are dramatically overshadowed by the negative developments of the coronavirus pandemic,” Herodotou said in an introductory note included in the central bank’s annual report for 2019.
He listed external geopolitical developments, Brexit, trade tensions and the high level of private debt in addition to the challenges faced by the banking sector.
“We will have to face (these risks) even after the pandemic, but to an obviously greater degree,” Herodotou added.
He said that the progress made in 2019 supported the fast and coordinated actions of the government and the central bank in dealing with the economic impact of the pandemic.
Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides on Thursday detailed a 10-point plan announced by President Nicos Anastasiades in a televised address Wednesday night, aimed at pumping liquidity in the economy in the form of cash grants and cheap loans to businesses.
“This will lay the foundations on which a long-term and at the same time sustainable growth course the Cypriot economy can be based,” he added.
Previous projections by the central bank in late 2019 showed that the Cypriot economy was expected to see growth rates for 2020 to 2022 lower than that of last year.
Herodotou said the financial impact cannot be quantified with precision for the time being, given that there is not sufficient data yet, and the pandemic‘s duration cannot be projected.
“Despite unprecedented developments and very negative short-term impact, we must consider how much worse the situation would be, had the progress of 2019 not been achieved both in macro-economic and fiscal policy issues as well as on matters relating to the stability of the banking and financial sector,” Herodotou noted.
A report by CBC on Wednesday said the banking system managed to reduce non-performing loans, the legacy of the 2013 economic crisis, by 561 million euros, or 5.9 percent, to 8.97 billion euros at the end of 2019.
Total non-performing loans represented 27.9 percent of total loans, down from a 2014 peak of 52 percent of total loans, or over 27 billion euros.
Cyprus reports no new coronavirus cases for 1st time since March 9
No new coronavirus cases were detected in tests on Saturday for the first time in Cyprus since March 9, when the country reported its first two cases, according to the Health Ministry.
“Out of a total of 2,414 laboratory tests, no cases of SARS-CoV-2 were detected,” the ministry said in a statement.
On May 4, Cyprus reported zero cases from the testing of local people, but on the same day it recorded two positive cases relating to people who arrived from abroad.
Saturday’s results also included testing of 160 people who arrived from abroad, and they were all negative.
Samplings are being currently taken from people working in hair and beauty salons, restaurants, cafes and bars, elementary and secondary school students, travelers from abroad, patients entering hospitals for operations or treatment and individuals who wish to be tested, according to the statement.
The announcement was an encouraging sign for Cyprus’ plans to revive its tourism. The government decided on Friday to resume flights on June 9, initially with 19 countries, and allow hotels to reopen as of June 1.
Cyprus enters second stage of coronavirus lockdown relaxation
Cyprus took yet another step back to pre-coronavirus pandemic normality with the lifting of all restrictions on movement, the reopening of most schools and the resumption of restaurants and other recreation spots services, officials announced on Thursday.
As of 6 a.m. local time, people drove to their jobs or to the shops without having to request prior permission by SMS. Police said they kept up their checks to the last moment, booking about 30 people for being out on the streets before the expiry of a night curfew.
Cypriot authorities said they had given more than 16 million permissions to people to go out since March 26, mostly to buy provisions or for individual training and walking a dog.
Owners of restaurants, taverns cafes, bars and pubs were busy since early Thursday morning in marking spaces and arranging tables in open spaces where they will receive customers, before resuming normal operation in about three weeks’ time.
They can have groups of no more than 10 people on the same table, but tables must have a space of at least two meters between them, which means that they can accommodate at any given time about half of the people they could receive.
Staff members will be required to wear a mask and gloves. Restaurants will have a single-use disposable menu and disinfectants on the table for people who would like to clean their plates. Single-use knives and forks will also be offered as an alternative choice to regular ones.
Bars and pubs were allowed to operate provided that they will not serve people on stools, but only to seated customers in line with social distancing regulations.
City authorities said they would facilitate recreation spots by allowing them to seat people in public space.
Cypriot Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said that despite reservations by teachers’ and parents’ associations, almost all elementary and secondary education pupils returned to their classes.
About 52,770 elementary education pupils and almost 23,000 gymnasia joined final grade lyceum students, who resumed classes since May 16.
First and second-year lyceum students will continue to be taught by distance learning.
Cypriot government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios told state television the activation of the second stage of restrictions easing was made possible by the discipline and responsible behavior by the people, who complied with Health of Ministry regulations.
He urged people to behave in the same way during the second stage so as to make possible the third stage which mostly relates to the revival of travel and tourism, one of the most important sectors for the Cypriot economy, as it contributes 21 percent to the island’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Kousios refused to confirm that airports will resume operation as of June 9, saying that a final decision will be made on Friday by the Council of Ministers.
“The scientific team has made positive recommendations for the resumption of airport operations and hotels, and what remains to be done is the fixing of dates and the publication of security protocols by the Health Ministry,” Kousios said.
State television has quoted officials as saying that hotels would reopen as of June 1 and flights in and out of airports would resume as of June 9.
Cyprus plans to restart air travel and tourism on June 9
Cyprus is preparing plans to restart air travel and tourism on June 9, according to government sources quoted by state television on Wednesday.
Deputy Government Spokesman Panayiotis Sentonas said President Nicos Anastasiades conducted the meeting with the scientific team advising the government on the coronavirus pandemic and the Council of Ministers, to discuss detailed planning for reopening airports and hotels.
He added that tourism will not be the same as before, as tourists will be required to behave in line with rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19, whether on the beach, in restaurants or during tours and visits in cities.
State television said that as part of preparations for the restart of tourism, reports on the pandemic situation in 21 countries will be prepared with a view of categorizing them and choosing those from which tourists would be allowed to arrive from and when.
Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides has said that detailed security protocols and travel advice will be issued for each one of the countries which will be allowed to send tourists to Cyprus.
State television said that hotels will resume operation as of June 1 for local visitors so as to prepare to receive foreign tourists as of June 9.
It added that air travel will first resume with Greece, Israel and Malta, three countries with the same epidemiological characteristics as Cyprus.
Restrictions on tourism were imposed on March 15 for an initial period of two weeks, after which a complete ban on flights was imposed.
Cyprus received almost four million tourists in 2019, with travel and tourism contributing 21 percent to its gross domestic product (GDP).
On May 21, all restrictions on movement will be lifted, including a night curfew, and restaurants will start receiving customers, initially in open spaces.
Local authorities in several cities announced that they will relax regulations so as to allow restaurants to put tables in public spaces at discount fees, until they resume normal operation in about three weeks’ time.
Cyprus activates plan for second stage of restriction easing
Cyprus’ Council of Ministers on Tuesday activated the planning for the second stage of easing the COVID-19 restrictions as of May 21, government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios said.
Kousios said after a cabinet meeting that minor changes to the original planning were approved, relating to the opening earlier than planned of organized beaches and also of betting shops.
The reopening of ports, archaeological sites, museums and libraries was put off to June 1.
“Measures are being relaxed under the condition that people continue to take protective measures and follow the protocols issued by the Ministry of Health,” Kousios added.
Announcing just one new COVID-19 case on Tuesday, Health Ministry advisor, virologist Leondios Kostrikis, said the scientific team advising the ministry has every reason to be satisfied with the development of the pandemic.
“The excellent epidemiological picture allows us to proceed to the second phase of lifting restrictions as of Thursday,” he added.
Kousios confirmed that elementary schools and gymnasiums will reopen and that all restrictions on movement, including a night curfew, imposed on March 30, will come to an end on May 21.
Under the government’s plan, people will also be allowed to visit relatives and friends and to move freely in parks (but not in playgrounds), squares and marinas, as long as they remain in groups of under 10 people.
Restaurants will start receiving customers in open spaces and in groups of less than 10 people, and hairdressers, barbershops, beauty salons, massage and tattoo parlors will also reopen.
Religious services in churches, mosques and other places of worship will be allowed as of Saturday, along with weddings and funerals with free attendance.
Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said that at a teleconference of European Union (EU) foreign ministers convened by his German counterpart Heiko Maas, Cyprus had been asked to provide its planning for the reactivation of tourism.
He added that services and interested organizations will receive detailed plans and security protocols by Monday for the tourism sector, which he said will restart sooner in June than originally planned.
He added that a detailed travel advice will be issued for each country, with the corresponding country also issuing its own travel advice.
Cyprus gov’t to proceed to 2nd phase of lockdown easing
The government of Cyprus was advised by its scientific team to proceed to the introduction of further relaxation in coronavirus restrictions following the successful application of initial easing 11 days ago, officials said on Friday.
Health Ministry advisor, virologist Leondios Kostrikis, in announcing a total of 910 COVID-19 cases after three new infections, said the situation after the introduction of the first batch of relaxation measures was very satisfactory.
“For this reason the scientific team suggested today to the political leadership of the country the further relaxation of restrictions,” Kostrikis said.
President Nicos Anastasiades presided over a meeting of half of his ministers dealing with the coronavirus epidemic, at which planning was made for the application of the second phase as of May 21.
The plans will go before the Council of Ministers on May 20.
Professor of Epidemiology George Nicolopoulos said ahead of the meeting that no significant impact on the situation had been observed after the introduction of the first easing of restrictions, when 25,000 retail shops opened for the first time after six weeks of a total lockdown.
Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou stated that it was decided to proceed with the most controversial of easing measures, the call back to school on May 21 of all elementary and secondary education pupils following the return to classes of final-year students on May 11.
To minimize dangers, Prodromou said a COVID-19 testing program among students and teachers will be speeded up as of Monday.
As part of the second phase, all restrictions on movement will come to an end, including a night curfew, but gatherings will be allowed only in groups of no more than 10 people.
More shops, including hair salons, barber shops and beauty parlors, betting shops will also resume operation, as well as museums, libraries and archaeological sites.
Ports will also resume operation, though disembarkation from cruise ships will not be allowed.
In a move further ahead, Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said a ministerial committee, in association with specialists of the scientific team advising the government, will finalize on Monday a plan to resume flights as part of the third phase from June 9 to July 13.
He said the plan will receive final approval from the Council of Ministers at its meeting next week.
Karousos said that tourists arriving in Cyprus will not be quarantined, but added that they will probably be requested to get tested 72 hours before arrival.
Cyprus calls on Turkey to negotiate on demarcation of marine boundaries
Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides on Tuesday called on Turkey to negotiate on the delimitation of their marine boundaries or resort to the ruling of the International Court of Justice.
Christodoulides was responding to Turkey’s denunciation of a joint declaration issued by five countries on Monday condemning Turkey’s drilling for natural gas off the southwest shores of Cyprus.
“If Turkey trusts its legal positions it should respond to the request of the Republic of Cyprus and consent to a recourse to the International Court to resolve the issue of marine boundaries,” Cyprus state radio quoted Christodoulides as saying on its website.
Cyprus, Greece, France, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates issued the declaration, denouncing “the ongoing Turkish illegal activities in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone and its territorial waters, as they represent a clear violation of international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
Cyprus News Agency reported that the declaration was issued after a teleconference between the foreign ministers of the five countries, during which they discussed regional issues.
A statement by the Turkish foreign ministry strongly condemned the declaration and accused Cyprus of disregarding the rights of the Turkish Cypriots, who live in seclusion in the part of Cyprus placed under the control of Turkish troops in a 1974 military operation.
The statement said Turkey is drilling in areas within its continental shelf and that its activities are in line with international law.
A Turkish drillship is currently active off the Cypriot shores with the intention of carrying out a natural gas drilling.
The European Union has termed Turkey’s actions near the coasts of Cyprus as illegal and imposed sanctions, including targeted ones on Turkish individuals personally involved in drillings.
Cyprus keeps COVID-19 infection rate low in second week of lockdown easing
At the start of the second week of easing the lockdown rules in Cyprus, the number of new coronavirus infections was minimal and this was “especially encouraging,” the scientific advisor to Cyprus’ Health Ministry, Leondios Kostrikis, said on Tuesday.
Kostrikis said that only two COVID-19 infections were confirmed in the 24-hour period before Tuesday afternoon, which raised the total number of infections to 903.
However, he said it was worrying that the “minimal” number of infections reported in the last few days was confirmed in what he called “special groups,” a term referring to people either entering hospitals for operations or elderly people who are being tested before being accepted into nursing homes.
But Kostrikis added that this did not negate the fact that the relaxation of restrictions on May 4 did not lead to a spread of the coronavirus to the wider community.
Restrictions on movement will be entirely lifted on May 21 and will be followed by measures leading to a return to “normality” by mid-July.
A public hospital official said that 16 deaths could be directly attributed to COVID-19.
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