COVID19: Scientists advise caution over reopening crossings

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Authorities will need to be wary over letting people into the Cyprus Republic from the north through crossing points as Turkish Cypriot authorities reopened Tymbou (Ercan) airport on Wednesday.

Member of the COVID-19 scientific advisory committee to the government, Dr Peter Karayiannis told the Cyprus News Agency that authorities should contemplate whether travellers allowed into the north are ‘red-flagged’ after flights restart there.

Private airliner Pegasus reinstated flight between Turkey and the Turkish occupied north on Wednesday, with Turkey’s flag carrier Turkish Airlines set to begin flights on 20 June.

Visitors will still need to be quarantined for 14 days, but as Turkey is on the category A list of countries in the north, as of July 1 passengers will not need to present a negative coronavirus test.

Turkey has poor epidemiological data as there are 2,151 cases for every million citizens compared to Cyprus’ 816 cases.

Karayiannis was speaking ahead of a meeting of the Bicommunal Technical Committee on Health on Wednesday.

The committee is to discuss measures the Turkish Cypriot authorities will take at entry points, including the checkpoints.

“Since people from Turkey will be allowed into the north as of July 1, we are especially concerned, and we will tell them [the Turkish Cypriot members].”

During the meeting with the Turkish Cypriots, via teleconference, the two sides will be comparing lists of allowed countries.

“Depending on which countries they will receive visitors from, we must be very careful if they are countries that we consider to be a red flag,” Karayiannis said.

On crossing points, the University of Nicosia virologist said crossing points would have to open gradually, with the authorities monitoring the situation for 14 days after each stage.

Karayiannis also noted the north has still not presented an epidemiological study, as the Turkish Cypriot side had committed at the last meeting.

Meanwhile, in the north, the issue caused by a private jet that arrived last Friday from Turkey whose passengers were not quarantined as is the rule, caused an uproar, as high ranking officials were accused of having friends over who wanted to visit the north’s casinos.

The ruling coalition said that the flight had carried nine members of a technical team flown in to do evaluation work on a marina being built in Lapithos.

On Tuesday, the scientific team under ‘prime minister’ Ersin Tatar resigned claiming the coalition does not consult them and has kept data from them to complete their study on the virus situation.

Turkish Cypriot authorities have reported no new COVID-19 infections since 17 April, their total remains at 108 cases and four deaths.

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