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Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou , Source: Constantinos Ioannou on Facebook

Cyprus enters snap 14-day lockdown

Cyprus enters snap 14-day lockdown

A steep rise in Covid-19 infections threatens to overrun the island’s health system

After a marathon meeting, the Cypriot government decided on Friday to impose a “short, sharp” lockdown for two weeks between 26 April and 9 May in response to fast-spreading Covid infections, which are threatening to overwhelm the island’s health system. Hospital staff had appealed in desperation for tightening of the restrictions, warning that in the past couple of days they were being forced to treat new patients in hallways and ambulances due to the shortage of beds.

“We cannot ignore the agony expressed by health professionals who have assumed the task of treating our fellow citizens in Covid wards and intensive care units,” Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said, quoted by Cyprus Mail. “The health system is under immense pressure and we need to ensure that the provided health services will continue to be high level.”

Night-time curfew

The minister said the situation, provoked by the aggressive British strain, which is increasingly infecting young people, required “difficult decisions and drastic measures”. Among them is a 9pm to 5am curfew, from which only people travelling to work or health-related reasons are exempt.

Gatherings are banned, irrespective of venue. People can leave their home only once a day via text message, which is not required for visiting a vaccination centre.

All catering establishments will switch to delivery and takeaway only. Non-essential shops will also close. All cultural and entertainment venues will have to shutter. Gyms, dance, and other schools, as well as betting shops, hairdressers, and beauty salons will close.

All group private tuition is prohibited, as well as sports and social activities involving children under 18. Personal training outdoors may continue with a two person limit.  

At least 20 per cent of workers in public services, apart from those deemed essential, must work from home. The same applies to private businesses with the minimum number of employees present capped at three and the maximum at 25. Also, 50 per cent of the staff must undergo testing.  

Easter exemptions

No worshippers will be allowed in churches in days other than Holy Week. Weddings, christenings, and funerals are capped at 10 people.

Between Holy Monday and Holy Friday, up to 50 people can attend religious services indoors. They will be allowed inside churches only upon presentation of a vaccine certificate for receiving at least first dose three weeks prior. For staying outside, church-goers need not be vaccinated but must be seated, while observing physical distancing and other health protocols.  

On Holy Saturday, the 50 people limit remains but unvaccinated persons will be allowed. On that day, the curfew will be extended for an hour beyond midnight. Worshippers can visit church courtyards on Easter Sunday, but must be seated. On Ester Sunday, a household can meet up to 10 people from two other families inside.

Vaccinations the only way out

Urging everyone to vaccinate “without hesitation and delay”, the Health Minister said vaccinations were the only way to halt the aggressive transmission caused by variants, therefore the government was speeding up the vaccine rollout in a bid to cover as many people as possible with at least one dose.

The lockdown will be lifted on May 10 but those who visit crowded venues, including eateries, gyms, retail outlets, theatres must present a negative Covid test, vaccine certificate or proof of recovery from the illness.

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