Cyprus said it was shocked to discover that Belgium has placed it with the UK on its ‘orange’ entry list where COVID-19 quarantine applies despite the island being among the safest places in Europe.
Cypriot Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou on Thursday expressed his surprise that conditional entry was imposed by Belgium.
“I have contacted the Foreign Minister about this. I am surprised by this because we are considered the safest country in the European Union at the moment,” Ioannou told reporters.
“I am wondering with what criteria and what data was used. Obviously, a mistake may have been made by experts in Belgium. This will be handled by the Foreign Ministry,” he added.
Belgium operates a system of three categories, similar to that of Cyprus but it instead denotes countries as Green, Orange and Red categories instead of A, B and C.
The Belgian foreign affairs website lists Cyprus in the orange category, along with the United Kingdom and Greece.
Being placed in the ‘orange’ category means that travel is allowed but subject to quarantine, a test and other measures.
Sweden and Italy are placed above Cyprus in the ‘green’ category for whom entry is unconditional.
Cyprus has successfully contained the outbreak with daily cases firmly in single digits and a very low death rate.
Expert advising the government on the coronavirus outbreak also could not understand why Belgium should have placed Cyprus anywhere other than in the safest nations list.
Epidemiologist Dr Leontios Kostrikis told the Cyprus News Agency, in an effort to make sense of the decision, that this may be linked to the Turkish occupied north allowing flights from Turkey which is on Belgium’s banned ‘red’ list.
Kostrikis said that any misunderstanding over the north should in no way impact the Republic of Cyprus.
“Cyprus is one of the best countries in Europe at this moment in epidemiological terms, there is no case for it not to be.”
Virologist Peter Karayiannis believes a bit of ‘tit-for-tat’ might be at play.
“Because we placed Belgium in Category B they acted in reciprocity, which is inexcusable. One cannot base their decisions on anything else than on epidemiological criteria.”
Visitors from Category B counties need to provide a negative COVID-19 test on arrival.