President Nicos Anastasiades announced a gradual relaxation in repatriation restrictions to allow more categories of Cypriots and permanent residents abroad to gradually return home amidst a lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Students who are in halls of residence who are on foundation courses or in their first year
Permanent residents of Cyprus who are working temporarily abroad and who have had their employment suspended or terminated because of the coronavirus crisis
Permanent residents who must return to Cyprus for humanitarian reasons
Nationals of any country whose professional or scientific expertise is needed to combat the epidemic
The president said the most painful decision had been the decision to stop thousands of Cypriots, primarily students, from returning from fear of a mass import of the coronavirus.
He said the decision was taken in order to protect both the individuals in question as well as the general population from the coronavirus spreading.
Announcing the easing of criteria, he clarified that this will be done in stages, and depending on the guidance of the scientific committee.
Responding to a question on repatriation capacity, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said that it is currently estimated at 1,000 people per 15 days, although that is likely to change going forward as it depends on capacity at quarantine facilities to accommodate new arrivals as well as the capacity of testing them for the virus upon their return.
All commercial flights are prohibited although the government has been arranging for a trickle of arrivals through special rescue flights. All those repatriating must spend 14 days in quarantine in state facilities.
Families of students, particularly those in the UK, have been pressing the government to arrange their return.
More than 4500 people, about 60% of them students, have registered on a Foreign Ministry portal requesting repatriation.
The new repatriation announcement was made during a televised press conference with the participation of competent ministers, during which Anastasiades announced the extension of lockdown to April 30 and MoL’s support measures for workers and businesses to June 12 and for four months thereafter.