From a scientific perspective, the gradual opening of the checkpoints on the Green Line is a ‘very reasonable arrangement’, one of the experts advising the government on the coronavirus situation in Cyprus told CNA on Sunday.
Petros Karayiannis, a member of the team of scientific advisors on Covid-19, spoke to CNA ahead of tomorrow’s teleconference of the bicommunal technical committee on health.
Five members of the team of advisors will also be taking part in the telecoference.
Karayianis said the aim was for scientists to exchange views on the epidemiological situation on each side of the Green Line. He expressed the hope that there will be positive and constructive climate “so that we can determine if the picture of the Turkish-held side reflects reality.”
Participants cannot discuss political issues but will focus on purely scientific data, he said.
The team of scientists also want to know what measures will be taken by the Turkish Cypriot side so that coronavirus is not imported from Turkey once air and sea links resume.
President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have agreed in principle to the gradual reopening of the checkpoints beginning from June 8 when crossing with be allowed at checkpoints where movement is by car for the following categories:
- Turkish Cypriots who work or study in areas controlled by the Republic of Cyprus or who undergo treatment at the Bank of Cyprus Oncology Centre, the Cyprus Institute for Neurology and Genetics and public and private hospitals of the Republic
- Enclaved Greek Cypriots and Maronites who live permanently in the Turkish occupied areas
Crossings will continue for humanitarian reasons, it was also agreed.
The Republic of Cyprus had suspend the operation of four crossing points (Ledras Street, Astromeritis, Lefka and Dherynia) on February 28, as a precaution against Covid-19 but continued to allow crossing at another five crossing points taking all necessary precautions.
In mid-March, Turkish Cypriot authorities prohibited all crossings and on April 11 expanded the prohibition to include the diplomatic corps and members of the UN.
Regarding the epidemiological situation in the government controlled areas, Karayiannis said that most of the positive cases in recent days were imported. There were only two cases from tracing of already positive cases which may be older, he added.
Karayiannis added that we should not be looking so much as the number of cases but admissions to hospitals. For weeks now, there have been no admissions as a result of heavy illness from the virus.
The same applies to the number of intubated patients which remains steady. “All this shows us that there is no community spread,” he told CNA.
Asked about the option of a gradual reopening of checkpoints, he said this was a very logical possibility.
“With the relaxation of our measures we moved in stages, evaluating the situation after a time period before moving on to the second phase. I think a similar approach should be used here, so that if things go well and there are no transmissions on either side, then we can move ahead with more opening,” of the checkpoints.
Karayiannis said that Monday’s teleconference is also expected to discuss how checks will be carried out the checkpoints.
The scientific team of advisors will hold a meeting with President Anastasiades on Tuesday to discuss the coronavirus situation and the relaxations of phase three, which begins on June 9 and includes the reopening of the airports.
He did not rule out the president asking to be briefed on conclusions of the teleconference of the technical committee regarding the gradual opening of the checkpoints.