COVID19: Cyprus greets first post-lockdown tourists

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Cyprus on Tuesday welcomed its first tourists since airports were closed under COIVID-19 lockdown rules in March, with flights arriving from Israel, Greece and Bulgaria.

Israir Airlines from Tel Aviv was the first commercial flight to land at Larnaca airport since the 21 March ban.

Airports reopened as part of the third phase of easing restrictive measures in an effort to get tourism back on track with Larnaca and Paphos airports reopening on Tuesday.

In total five arrivals and five departures were scheduled at Larnaca airport.

Following the flight from Tel Aviv, another four commercial flights are expected to arrive on the island, from Athens and Sofia, Bulgaria.

Transport minister Yiannis Karousos was there to welcome the first passengers arriving in the morning.

“Today, after two and a half months, the connectivity of our island with 19 other countries is reinstated. Cypriot airports are opening with optimism,” Karousos tweeted on Tuesday.

Five flights were scheduled to depart from Larnaca for Athens, Sofia and Tel Aviv.

The first commercial flight to depart from Cyprus, bound for Athens left Larnaca airport at 8 am.

The airports were closed on March 21 after a decree came into force, banning commercial flights to and from Cyprus.

Under its exit lockdown road map, Cyprus is opening its airports from June 9 to a select band of 13 countries that are considered low risk.

They include Israel, Greece, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria and Malta but the island’s two biggest markets Britain and Russia are not on the approved list.

France, Belgium, Sweden, Ireland and the Netherlands are also not on the list.

All those arriving between June 9 -19 will need to provide a health certificate proving they are Covid-19 negative.

From June 20, there will be no need to provide a health certificate from the 13 countries, but another six countries will be added to the list including Switzerland, Romania and Poland.

Cyprus says it will update the list of approved countries on a weekly basis based on the scientific data.

They will, for now, operate following strict guidelines, with only passengers and employees allowed in the buildings.

Travellers to Cyprus need to have a coronavirus test 72 hours prior to boarding their flight to Cyprus, they will also need to electronically submit via a platform set up by authorities,

The government has created a platform (www.cyprusflightpass.com) where documents should be uploaded so travellers can find all the information regarding prerequisites to travel to the island.

To attract tourists to the island, Nicosia has pledged to cover medical costs of any visitor who tests positive for COVID-19 while enjoying a holiday on the Mediterranean island.

Authorities estimate a 70% loss of its nearly 4 million tourist arrivals this year, dealing a blow to the key tourism industry that generates around 15% of GDP.