COVID19: Aradippou mayor in hot water for going to church

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The mayor of Aradippou, a COVID-19 cluster, could face legal proceedings for breaking social distancing rules by attending church during Easter, the Justice Minister said Tuesday.

Justice Minister George Savvides told state radio CyBC, said that the case has “yet to be closed” and authorities are looking into whether further action is warranted.

Aradippou Mayor Evangelos Evangelides was fined €300 by police for his misdemeanour for attending a church service at the Apostolos Loucas held on Easter Saturday, in violation of social distancing rules issued by the Health Ministry to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The Justice Minister said the case was still being reviewed which could see the official face a stiffer penalty.

Under the contagious diseases law, offenders can face a maximum of six months in jail or €3,000 fine

People taken to court for violating social distancing in a “contemptuous manner” have been handed heavier fines instead of prison time.

Evangelides posted an apology on his Facebook account, stating that he had no intention of disrespecting the law or any member of the public who wanted to be in church on Saturday morning.

“I sincerely apologise to anyone who felt this way,” said the mayor.

In a bid to contain the coronavirus outbreak, the government extended its ban on mass gatherings and attending religious worship to cover the Orthodox Easter period.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou and President Nicos Anastasiades made clear in the days leading up to Easter that church services were out of bounds under the lockdown.

The Mayor of Aradippou, a village outside Larnaca, a hotspot for the virus, was caught on a live stream on Facebook posted by a page belonging to the Apostolos Loucas church.

Evangelides defended himself saying that he had gone to church in the morning to see that everything was going smoothly and was asked by the priests to help out with something.

However, as he argued, the empty church moved him, and he felt the need to stay.

“In an emotional state because of the absence of the faithful and happiness of the Resurrection, I took Holy Communion. I understand, this bothered people,” Evangelides said.

The mayor said he took full responsibility for his actions.

He expressed respect for the police and said he had no objection to way they handled the case since he never believed that those in public office are above the law.

Aradippou has managed to contain its COVID-19 outbreak, which put the municipality on the map as the island’s leading coronavirus hotspot.

According to Health Ministry figures Aradippou – with a population of around 20,000 – has the highest number of coronavirus cases per population with 147.

This amounts to 401 cases for every 100,000 inhabitants. Paphos follows second with 103.

On Monday, Cyprus reported a total of 772 confirmed cases of COVID-19, while 12 patients have died.

More offenders

Cyprus Police are looking into footage of an Easter congregation held on Good Friday and Easter Saturday at a church in the village of Avdellero, which borders Aradippou.

Footage broadcasted by CyBC TV shows tens of people in attendance at church services held over the Easter weekend.

Commenting on the incidents for the Financial Mirror, police press officer, Christos Andreou said investigators were looking into the footage in an effort to identify people in attendance and who organised the services.