News Local Coronavirus: Closure of four checkpoints extended to Monday

Coronavirus: Closure of four checkpoints extended to Monday

Four Green Line checkpoints will remain closed until Monday as conditions have not changed to warrant their re-opening, philenews reports citing informed sources.

It said the decision is expected to be announced by Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou later today. Cabinet will revisit the issue on Monday.

The government had suspended the operation of the Ledra Street, Dherynia, Lefka and Astromeritis checkpoints for one week last Saturday as part of measures to prevent an outbreak of coronavirus.

It said this was a public health and not a political decision and was intended to free resources to step up screening at the other checkpoints which remain open.

No coronavirus cases have been reported on either side of the Green Line.

The closure has divided opinion. Peace activists protested against the closure last Saturday saying coronavirus was being used as an excuse to obstruct contact between the two communities – a charge denied by the government which says there is no hidden political agenda.

Another group has called for the permanent closure of all the checkpoints because they prop up the occupation regime and will be staging a demonstration at the Ledra Street checkpoint on Friday evening. Supporters of APOEL staged a similar demonstration yesterday.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci has also criticised the closure and said yesterday he will be writing to the UN Secretary general to protest what he called a unilateral decision

President Nicos Anastasiades last night brushed off the criticism saying the decision was based on scientific data regarding the composition of the population and aimed at protecting both communities. Nor would he accept complaints on issues which pertain to the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus, he added.

“The reasons for which restrictions were imposed in some checkpoints so as to have more effective control remain. We are not preventing anyone from going. There are a total of five open checkpoints. It was me who asked for the opening of more. (Mr Akinci) should reply why he did not open the checkpoints at Limniti or Pirroi and let’s not forget that the checkpoint at Dherynia only recently opened.

“Therefore I do not accept that the measures a government considers it should take, like all governments, should be seen as being against one or other community,” he said.

The president also took issue with complaints made by the Turkish Cypriot side that ID checks were being requested by Cypriot police at the checkpoints. “This is something they have been enforcing since they lifted restrictions on movement. We have not protested. It is they who constantly protest,” he said.

Akinci yesterday raised his concerns over the closure with the UN special representative in Cyprus Elizabeth Spehar and said he would be writing to the UN secretary general and will also be contacting the EU.

Akinci said there was no coronavirus on either side, no scientific basis for the closure of the four checkpoints which had a negative impact on the two communities.

The bicommunal technical committee on health had met three times and concluded there was no reason to close the checkpoints, he added.

He also conveyed the concern of shopkeepers who earlier yesterday had submitted a petition with 300 signatures and asked that she convey these concerns to the UN chief.

Meanwhile, two Akel MEPs have raised the issue with the European Commission asking whether it had been consulted and whether it was in violation of the Green Line regulation.

They received an immediate response from two Disy MEPs who criticised their Akel colleagues for denouncing their own government for taking steps to prevent a coronavirus outbreak.

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