News Local Health Minister extends measures to contain coronavirus spread

Health Minister extends measures to contain coronavirus spread

The Health Minister, in a new decree, extended until April 30 measures already in force to contain the spread of coronavirus.

According to the new decree, regarding the repatriation of Cypriots, in addition to the existing categories permitted to return to Cyprus, a decision was made for the gradual return of Cypriot citizens who are either staying in university dormitories and who are enrolled in the preparatory programmes during the current academic year, the so-called Foundation Courses, or, are in the first year of undergraduate studies.

Also persons permanently residing in the Republic of Cyprus who are at the present time, in foreign countries for purposes of temporary employment and whose employment has been suspended or terminated due to COVID-19 and citizens permanently residing in the Republic of Cyprus who are in foreign countries and whose return is deemed necessary for humanitarian reasons, such as providing care to persons who, due to serious injury after the issuance of the decrees, are unable to self-serve, or are  organ recipients or donors, who are called for urgent transplants as well as unaccompanied minors are allowed to return.

Entry to the Republic of Cyprus will also be allowed to persons, regardless of nationality, whose assistance, due to their professional or scientific capacity, is deemed necessary in the efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Decisions to repatriate people who belong to the above categories, the decree notes, will be made on the basis of the prevailing situation and the necessary opinion of the Government`s scientific associates.

In order to tackle the pandemic, the following precautionary measures have been decided which include randomly selected samples will be collected and examined from each district, in accordance to the guidelines provided by the scientific group. A similar procedure has already been followed in Paphos.  Within the following days, 20,000 more samples will be collected from randomly selected people that, on the basis of the Decrees issued by the Minister of Health, continue working, either in the private sector or in the broader public sector, including the National Guard.

Samples collected from all the people that will return to Cyprus on the basis of the gradual and controlled repatriation program, will also be tested.

With regard to financial measures, it has been decided that employees and businesses will receive further support from the government up until June 12, 2020. In addition, for a period of four months, after the aforementioned period expires, employees and businesses will receive further support from the government on the basis of relevant criteria.

According to the new measures announced by the Minister of Health, the right of entry into the Republic without the presentation of a medical examination certificate for coronavirus applies to those who have travelled abroad for medical reasons, as well as the persons who accompanied them at their departure or hospitalization, students who belong to “vulnerable groups” in relation to the coronavirus, in accordance with the Press release issued by the Ministry of Health, dated March 16, 2020 and those who have travelled for medical reasons, instead of presenting the medical certificate, should hold a certificate from the local Diplomatic Missions of the Republic of Cyprus.

Those who are students and belong to the vulnerable groups, it notes,  should hold a special certificate which will be issued only after an evaluation of the prerequired medical certificates by a three-member Medical Council. Applications will be submitted to the e-mail address of the Pancyprian Medical Association [email protected].

All those in the above categories entering the territory of the Republic of Cyprus will remain in quarantine for 14 days after their arrival, in areas designated by the State, except for persons who were abroad for medical reasons and fall under category 1 mentioned above. These persons will remain in self-isolation in order to continue, unhindered, their medical treatment.

It is understood that upon entering the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, they will undergo a mandatory examination for the COVID-19 disease, after which the provisions of the relevant medical protocol will be followed.

Furthermore, as of March 31, 2020 gatherings of people at any residence are prohibited, other than of permanent residents. At the same time, any movement of persons from 9.00 p.m. until 6.00 a.m. is prohibited, except for those holding a Confirmation of Movement of an Employee certificate. The use of the certificate of a citizen’s movement in exceptional cases, in accordance with the provisions of Form B, is limited to only once a day*, after permission has been obtained by sending an SMS message to 8998. A written declaration for the movement of citizens in exceptional cases, which falls within the provisions of Form B, shall be used only by persons over 65 years of age.

The decree notes that the once-a-day prohibition does not apply to visits to the pharmacy/blood donation center/doctor, to persons who cannot take care of themselves and transporting a soldier.

Regarding retailers the decree underlines those which will remain closed on Sundays are all food and beverage retailers (e.g. supermarkets, grocery stores, butchers, fish markets, bakeries, confectioneries, fruit shops, liquor stores).  It is understood that kiosks are excluded from the ban, provided that they do not market retail products.

As of 6 a.m. on the March 31, the operation of the following services are also suspended and include  tourist and travel agencies, aircraft provision services, with the exception of those relating to the service of flights which are exceptionally approved by the Minister of Transport, Communications and Works as well as cargo flights.
Also the number of persons including the driver during taxi rides, in a private cars and/or in other vehicles shall not exceed three persons.

In addition to the Minister’s decree, it was also decided that the fine from 150 euros increase to 300 euros, an  increase of controls at check points and the utilization of neighbourhood watch officers.

Recommendations will be made to commercial banks to issue credit cards to beneficiaries based on their deposits and ways of protecting customers who withdraw cash from automatic cash points.

In order to limit the movement of those who have been identified as positive to the coronavirus and are in self-isolation, the Ministry of Health is studying ways to impose electronic home surveillance.

Measures announced by President of the Republic that remain in effect since March 24 are a ban on unnecessary movement, travelling to and from the workplace during working hours, visit to a pharmacy, blood donation center or a doctor, visit to a store to buy essential goods / services, visit to a bank, provided that electronic transactions are not possible, as well as absolutely necessary visits to government services or services of the wider public sector and local government and movement with the purpose of assisting people who are unable to serve or protect themselves or who are in self-confinement and / or compulsory confinement (quarantine).

Under all circumstances, it said, all persons moving about must carry identification and additional proof(forms/SMS)as to the purpose of their movement. Further details can be found here: https://covid19.cy/index_en.html

Furthermore, as of March 24, Parks, playgrounds, open-air sport spaces, public gathering areas, among others, squares, dams, excursion sites, beaches, marinas remain closed.

All retailers shall suspend their operations, except from the businesses included in the Decree issued by the Minister of Health. Open markets, bazaars and itinerant sales are prohibited while citizens are also prohibited to attend places of religious worship, such as churches, mosques and other places for prayer.

Also prohibited is the custom of “lighting a bonfire” with immediate removal of timber or other materials already assembled for this purpose. The responsibility for implementing this ban lies with the local authorities in cooperation with the police.

Regarding travel advice and prohibition of flights, all flights, excluding those carrying cargo, to Larnaca and Paphos airports are prohibited, coming from the following countries:

Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria,  Egypt, Estonia,  Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Jordan, Latvia, Lebanon,  Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland,  Qatar, Romania,  Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Greece.

This does not apply to persons who  have travelled abroad for medical reasons, are abroad for a short stay for business or professional reasons, are allowed to enter according to the Vienna treaty.

Those who fall under the aforementioned categories must have a certification from the local diplomatic missions of the Republic of Cyprus (https://www.pio.gov.cy/coronavirus/en/press/18032020_7.pdf), which will be issued once the interested parties provide evidence substantiating the reasons mentioned in categories 2a and 2b (i.e. outbound ticket or a certification from the medical center where they were treated).

It is imperative it adds, that all those, falling in the aforementioned categories, who enter the territory of the Republic of Cyprus will remain in a 14-day mandatory quarantine at a location designated by the state, excluding those who have been abroad for medical reasons. These persons will be self-confined in order to be able to carry out their treatment uninterruptedly.

Regarding crossing points, the decree notes that crossing between the government-controlled and occupied areas of the Republic is allowed only for persons falling within the following categories: Cypriot citizens (Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots), those who legally reside in the territory governed by the Republic of Cyprus. EU citizens should present travel documents to certify their legal entry into the Republic and a utility bill to prove their legal residency status. Third country nationals should present travel documents to certify legal entry and their residency permit.

Country nationals who are in designated diplomatic service or mission, under bilateral or international treaties, should present diplomatic ID, or, for those who are not holders of a diplomatic ID, a non-diplomatic card or a certification from the competent authority of the reasons of their presence in the Republic of Cyprus. It is reminded that those who cross into the government-controlled areas of the Republic, must abide by the guidelines set by the Ministry of Health.

Regarding schools, the operation of public and private schools is suspended until the 10th of April 2020.  During the suspension of the operation of public schools, the Minister of Education and Culture has been authorized to implement alternative methods, via technology, to respond to educational needs and cover a part of the educational programme, for as long as schools will be closed.

The closure of shopping  malls and Department Stores, as well as cafes, restaurants, bars and all catering companies with the exception of those that offer home delivery services, night clubs, cinemas and theatres, libraries, museums, archaeological and historical sites, gambling agencies, casinos, etc., sports facilities, sports clubs, cultural groups and associations, theme parks (amusement parks, etc.), barber shops, hairdressers, beauty-massage centers is mandatory.

As long as these businesses observe strict hygiene rules, they may carry out administrative and other operations behind closed doors.

For reasons of health safety and health of the community, the following categories of enterprises remain open (see Decree by the Minister of Health: Food retailing (e.g. supermarkets* must ensure there are no more than one person per 8 m2); pharmacies, private health services (clinical laboratories), bakeries and confectioneries (no table seats), gas stations, and convenience stores.

It notes that from opening time until 10 am daily, supermarkets will exclusively cater only people who a) belong to the vulnerable groups, b) are over 60 years old and c) those with disabilities.

Retailers which do not fall under the category of suspension of their operations may continue their operations by ensuring that there are no more than five workers in the workplace.

In addition, hotels will suspend operations until 30 April 2020.

With regard to the public service by private, public and wider public sector organisations, it is strictly stated that the presence of persons in the service area should not exceed one person per 8 square metres.

Work on construction sites where more than three people are working simultaneously, shall be suspended as of 31 March 2020. This restriction does not apply to public utility projects and requests that concern urgent construction work relating to safety concerns and hazardous situations.

Regarding the manning of the public and wider public sector, it notes the public service and the wider public sector as well as persons working in the education service, as of 17/03/2020, will work  where possible from their own homes and with security personnel for urgent matters and serving the public in emergency cases.

The essential services are excluded from the above. The Ministers will define the needs of their Ministry and their departments for the proper planning of the work.

Irrespective of the above, and with the purpose to timely and effectively implement the measures announced, the public service, the wider public sector and the education service are obliged, if they are not called on a special duty or working from home, in case it is required of them, to provide their services in other areas as well if they are deemed necessary.

For public transport, the decree notes that the Companies that carry out regular routes, on a fare per customer basis, as well as all means of public transport, i.e. shuttle services to and from the airports, coaches, private buses, taxis (urban, rural / interurban) and car rental companies, will carry a number of passengers, equal to 30% of their vehicle capacity, rounded to the prior whole number (i.e. the number 6.35 is converted to 6).  In addition, all regular routes, on a fare per customer basis, being carried out on Sundays are cancelled as of March 22.

With regard to car rental companies,  they must implement the measures announced to secure the Disinfection Certificate prior to renting the vehicle;  Upon delivering the rental vehicle, the customer should be thoroughly informed of the instructions issued by the Ministry of Health and of the hygiene rules that must be adopted to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Regarding defence and the National Guard, the following measures apply:

• Staff and soldiers who fall under the ‘vulnerable groups’ category have received instructions to stay home while all Ministry of Defence and National Guard personnel will alternate so that the necessary manning will be in place to handle operation and safety. Those affected will be regularly updated by the superior Administrations.

• The necessary arrangements have been made for MOD and National Guard personnel to work from home, provided that no classified information in entailed. The buses transporting personnel to and from their units will operate in a 50% passenger capacity while the suspension in the presentation of army reserve officers is extended until the April 30. Depending on the developments, there will be an update later on for the presentations scheduled to take place after the April 30.

• Compulsory reclassification in the National Guard of enlisted personnel who are suspended for medical reasons, is postponed until the April 30. There will be an update later on as regards the arrangements to take place for the recruitment of these persons.

Furthermore it notes the Health directorate of the National Guard has drawn up an action plan in which all actions to be taken in case there is a confirmed coronavirus case in a military unit, are defined. In all military areas strict hygiene measures are being implemented, in accordance to the instructions of the Ministry of Health while the public is called upon to visit the District Military Recruitment Offices only in cases of absolute emergency and following a telephone call.

(Cyprus News Agency)

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