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Coronavirus: Akinci says closure of four checkpoints a mistake, hopes will be corrected

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci has described the government’s decision to close four checkpoints as part of measures to prevent an outbreak of coronavirus as a mistake and expressed the hope it will be reversed.

In a post on his Facebook page, Akinci said he had telephoned President Nicos Anastasiades last night about what he described as a ‘chaotic situation’ at the Ayios Dhometios checkpoint where long lines had formed after the introduction of additional screening measures.

“I pointed out that the situation created was nothing but torture and that it had nothing to do with the coronavirus struggle. In fact, I said that the virus is being planted between the two communities and that this should be stopped as soon as possible. I hope this last talk will lead to a positive development,” Akinci wrote.

About an hour later, the Turkish Cypriot leader said Anastasiades had called to inform him that ID checks for all those returning to the occupied areas through Ayios Dhometios would cease.

“Mr. Anastasiades called me shortly after our phone call and announced that they will immediately remove the identity checks when crossing back to the North in Kermiya-Metehan. This is, of course, a step in the right direction, and correcting the mistake on this issue would be a good development. I hope the mistake to close the four crossing points will also be corrected,” Akinci wrote.

No incidents of the virus have been reported on either side of the Green Line.

But the government has said the temporary closure of four checkpoints were necessary to free resources so that screening can be carried out at the other checkpoints.

It has rejected criticism that coronavirus was being used as an excuse to hamper contact with the two communities saying this was a temporary, public heath issue.

Yesterday, Akinci  had criticised the closure saying it “had nothing to do with the coronavirus”.

The situation at the checkpoint was ‘chaotic’ and the government’s decision separated rather than united the two communities, he added.

In a post on Facebook on Saturday, Akinci wrote:  “Have just witnessed the chaotic situation at the Kermia- Ay Dometios Checkpoint. Hundreds of cars had been waiting for hours for the only two GC police officers to check their ID’s, as a measure which has been introduced today and definitely has nothing to do with the coronavirus. Lots of people are protesting, some were leaving their cars in order to be able to cross on foot. As I have already conveyed to Mr. Anastasiades, we need to tackle the problem on scientific basis; but the decision of the GC leadership unfortunately lacks that and is in the direction of separating the two communities more, rather than uniting them.”

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