Cypriot authorities on Friday announced they were temporarily closing four of the eight crossing points across the island’s ceasefire line in efforts to prevent a coronavirus outbreak on Cyprus.
“For more effective control over the entry points, operation of the crossing points at Ledra Street, Astromeritis, Lefka and Dherynia are temporarily suspended for seven days,” Cyprus Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou told reporters.
The closures will come into effect from Saturday.
It is believed to be the first time that several crossing have been shut down to people movement since they were opened in 2003.
Following a cabinet meeting to discuss coronavirus, Ioannou said the closing of the crossings was a measure to protect “both communities”.
Cyprus is divided between the Greek Cypriot south — an EU member state — and the Turkish Cypriot north, which has been occupied by Turkey since 1974 in response to an Athens-engineered coup.
Health Ministry press officer Margarita Kyriacou told the Financial Mirror that a crisis command centre will be set up with the participation of the Ministries of Health, Foreign Affairs, Interior, Defence and the Deputy Ministry of Tourism.
The body will evaluate information coming in and will reassess the decision regarding the crossing points.
Kyriacou added that they might need to close the checkpoints for a longer period than a week, but that remains to be seen.
She said that the decision was taken to enhance checks at crossing points as there is a need for more staff at checkpoints to monitor the situation.
Flights to Italy
Asked to comment on information that the cabinet had looked into stopping flights from Italy and other affected countries, Kyriacou said the Health Ministry has no such information and that the Health Minister has not tabled such a proposal.
However, some crossings will remain open such as the busy checkpoint at Nicosia’s Ayios Dhometios which is open to vehicle traffic.
Ioannou said medical checks at this crossing in the capital will be beefed up.
He said the United Nations – whose peacekeepers patrol the 180-kilometre ceasefire line – and the British authorities – which maintain two military bases on the island – have been informed of the decision.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades has also informed Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci of the move.
Anastasiades has offered his summer residence to quarantine those who have visited infected countries but show no symptoms, health officials said on Thursday.
Government housing in the Troodos mountains along with the president’s residence will host people that may be infected from the novel coronavirus.
The government will be using state property in Troodos after some rural communities objected to having quarantine units located in their area.
Cyprus said that everyone coming in from high-risk countries – China, South Korea, Italy, Japan and Iran -will be assessed at ports of entry.
Cyprus has reported no cases of people infected with the coronavirus.