Cyprus shuts schools, cancels public events to stem coronavirus

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Cyprus on Tuesday introduced emergency measures to limit the spread of coronavirus by banning mass gatherings and closing schools while checkpoints across the island’s divide remain shuttered.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said the crossings would remain closed until March 18, events, parades and concerts would be cancelled until the end of the month while football matches must be played behind closed doors until March 31.

“All mass events, gatherings, concerts, parades in public places including football and other games are cancelled,” Ioannou told reporters after a four-hour cabinet meeting on coronavirus.

Gatherings of more than 75 people in a confined space are also banned under the emergency measures – including church congregations which are usually bolstered in the run-up to Greek Orthodox Easter.

All schools in the capital Nicosia will also be closed for three days as a precaution. These include all public and private nurseries, elementary and high schools, as well as tutorial institutes.

“This measure is linked to a particular (coronavirus) case and purely for preventive reasons, it has been deemed desirable to suspend the operation of schools at all levels, both public and private, for three days,” said Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou.

The measures come after Cyprus temporarily closed Nicosia General Hospital after its chief heart surgeon was among three cases of novel coronavirus confirmed on the divided eastern Mediterranean island.

The Republic of Cyprus had on Monday reported its first two cases of the disease — meaning that all 27 European Union member states have now been hit by the virus.

And on Tuesday, the Turkish-controlled north of the island announced the first case there, a 65-year-old German woman.

The University of Cyprus, the island’s only state university, also decided to shut for two weeks as eight medical faculty students came into contact with the heart surgeon. The three private universities, University of Nicosia, European University of Cyprus and Frederick University issued a joint statement saying they, too, would close from Wednesday to Sunday.

Football fixtures at all levels will be played without spectators.

On Monday, Ioannou had told a press conference that Cyprus’ first two cases of COVID19 were a 25-year-old man who had recently returned from a trip to Milan, Italy and a 64-year-old “health professional” working at a state hospital in Nicosia who returned from a trip to the UK.

Health services have already collected 152 samples from people who have come in to contact with the infected doctor.

Negative result have come back for the 152 cases checked, the Health Ministry announced later Tuesday.