NewsLocalCoronavirus: Cypriots stranded abroad, trying to return home

Coronavirus: Cypriots stranded abroad, trying to return home

Stories emerged on Monday from media outlets in Cyprus and on social media from Cypriots or their family members describing their woes as they try to obtain the medical certificate declaring them Coronavirus-free in order to be allowed back into the country.

The Health Ministry said on Sunday that it would not allow Cypriots back into the country as of 6pm on Monday, March 16, without presenting a health certificate from one of these accredited organisations abroad.

One story published by philenews concerns four people on pre-paid vacation in Bulgaria who cut their stay short since the government’s announcement on Sunday and have been trying to return to Cyprus since.

Their air carrier for the return flight WizzAir told them that all flights to Larnaca were overbooked and could therefore not allow them to board on a flight in time to beat the government’s deadline at 6pm on March 16.

They then purchased a ticket to Athens at their own expense to avoid being stranded in Bulgaria and with the ultimate goal of reaching Cyprus before 6 pm on Monday.

Arriving to Athens, they failed to secure a ticket to Cyprus as there are now very few places left and any remaining business class tickets are sold at exorbitant prices.

After coming to terms with the fact they would miss Monday’s deadline, they turned to Pasteur Institute in Athens, listed by the Ministry of Health as one of the accredited organisations it will accept a clean health certificate from to allow people back into the Republic.

However, when the reached out to the Institute only to be informed that it does not have the authority to conduct Coronavirus tests, contrary to the Cypriot government’s announcement on Sunday.

They then contacted the Cypriot embassy in Athens to be informed by officials that the test would need to be conducted by a private medical centre and then forwarded from there to the Pasteur Institute for certification.

The cost for a Coronavirus test in Athens is €280 per person, philenews reports, while due to the large volume expected by applicants at the Pasteur Institute it is difficult to estimate when the results and certification will be ready.

Until then, the four said they need to cover accommodation at their own expense or stay at Athens airport with all the risks the latter entails, as the latest announcements speak of accelerated spreading of the virus in Athens.

“Even at times of war, a state ensures the safe return of its citizens home, not close its doors to them,” one of the four said.

The woman also accused the Ministry of Health of not providing enough information on the centres conducting coronavirus tests resulting in great inconvenience for the people involved.

Discussion is also heated on social media, where one man wondered “What will happen to the people who don’t have a certificate? Will you keep them at the airport until April 30? And what if they are not students and have nowhere to stay abroad?”

One woman said that authorities in the UK refuse to conduct coronavirus checks unless the individual presents symptoms, which was echoed by other users, and another user suggested that the tests take place in Cyprus.

One person who reached out to In-Cyprus said that “the list of approved organisations that can issue a Coronavirus-free certificate were 1. Totally unaware 2. Some don’t do that testing 3. The rest won’t do the tests because they don’t have enough resources, they only test people with symptoms, and 4. Even if they do the test, the results come back days later. In other words, citizens can’t get home.”

The minister said on Sunday evening  that the measure would be enforced without exceptions and that those without a certificate should not even go to the airport because airlines were told not to board them.

On Monday the Education Ministry announced that following yesterday’s decision by the Council of Ministers it has set up an electronic platform to accept applications for a special €750 allowance to be paid to tertiary education students who do not return to Cyprus for the Easter holidays.

The Foreign Ministry reminded on Monday that in case of an emergency, Cypriot citizens abroad and/or their family can contact the national crisis management centre on the number (+357) 22801000 that is open 24/7.

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