COVID19: No firm date for when crossings reopen

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No decision was taken by Greek and Turkish Cypriot experts when crossings can operate normally to allow free movement across the island’s divide after three months of COVID-19 lockdown.

The Bicommunal Technical Committee on Health held a teleconference to exchange views and data regarding the spread of COVID-19 and assess the possible reopening of all crossing points.

Epidemiologists from both sides presented data on each side’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, Leonidas Fylaktou, the Greek Cypriot co-chair of the Committee, said: “No decision was taken, we exchanged views, we were briefed on the situation on each side, the epidemiological data, hospitalization of patients, the medication given…”

The Scientific Advisory Committee asked questions on the situation in the occupied areas and wanted to know why the cases were low.

Turkish Cypriot experts said this was because of the early and strict lockdown measures taken in the north.

The meeting was held after President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci agreed to the gradual opening of crossing points, according to the epidemiological data, from June 8.

Some crossings will open next week to vehicle traffic only under specific criteria.

On the reopening of crossings, Fylaktou said the decision is, of course, a political one.

He also said that a second videoconference will take place soon, but no date was set.

Turkish Cypriot members of the Technical Committee were given a copy of the latest National Surveillance Report published by the Health Ministry.

Peter Karayiannis of the scientific committee said the discussion on Monday was productive.

Meltem Onurkan Samani, the Turkish Cypriot coordinator for bicommunal committees, told daily Yeniduzen that the epidemiological data presented by the two sides was similar.

“This being the case, and provided that the data does not change, there was a consensus that restrictions on crossings could be gradually lifted in a coordinated manner,” said Samani.

Restrictions on crossings were introduced on 28 February when the Republic of Cyprus decided to suspend the operation of four crossing points (Ledra Street, Astromeritis, Lefka and Dherynia), as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.

Turkish Cypriot authorities then shut all crossing points from mid-March.