A three-week lockdown has begun in Cyprus where authorities have been battling a surge in coronavirus cases over the past month.
Restrictions aimed at curbing rising Covid-19 infections were reintroduced at 5am local time with all retail businesses, including department stores, malls, restaurants, hairdressers and beauty parlours, being ordered shut.
The island nation has been hit by what some have called an explosion in transmissions attributed in part to the arrival in recent weeks of the new UK variant of the virus. The highly contagious strain has been detected in a number of visitors flying in from Britain. As a former British colony, war-split Cyprus has strong ties with the UK.
Under the measures citizens will be permitted to leave their homes only twice a day – after informing authorities by text beforehand – either for exercise or reasons deemed essential such as stocking up on food and groceries and visiting doctors or pharmacies. Churches will close while schools will also be shuttered with on-line teaching being reintroduced.
Announcing the measures, health minister Constantinos Ioannou sounded the alarm saying the country’s intensive care system had reached breaking point because of the sudden rise in Covid-19 patients. The tougher restrictions were required to prevent “people dying helpless because we don’t have available beds,” he said, adding that Covid-19 tests will also be increased.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic authorities in the island’s Greek-administered south have reported more than 27,000 cases and 147 deaths.
President Nicos Anastasiades says his government has also requested that close ally and neighbour Israel dispatch extra vaccines to supplement those already dispensed to the island from the EU.
A rise in cases has been similarly reported by health authorities in the Mediterranean island’s Turkish-held north. A further 22 people were confirmed as having been diagnosed positive with coronavirus on Saturday bringing the total number of cases to 1,765 in the territory.
Main Photo: Ayia Varvara church is seen during sunset amid the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in the capital Nicosia, Cyprus. EPA-EFE/KATIA CHRISTODOULOU
Via The Guardian