COVID19: Cyprus praised for airport testing regime

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Cyprus has earned trust and international plaudits for the way it handled flight arrivals during the coronavirus pandemic as it stepped up testing at airports, said Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos.

Briefing the House Transport Committee on Friday, Karousos told MPs that Cyprus was praised in the UK and Sweden for its exemplary manner of bringing down COVID-19 cases without having to quarantine arrivals and ramping up tests at airports.

Quoting British newspaper ‘The Telegraph’, the Minister said: “the paper, in the context of the ‘Test4Travel campaign’ initiative, called on the British government to change its quarantine practices for passengers coming from countries with increased coronavirus cases, making special reference to the successful policy implemented by Cyprus who tests at airports”.

The UK government has come under pressure to introduce testing at airports rather than slap last-minute quarantine bans from certain countries.

“Countries that have expanded their airport testing of arriving holidaymakers have seen their national COVID infection rates decline,” The Telegraph wrote.

It added: “Cyprus reduced its rates after intensifying border testing to allow arrivals to avoid 14-day quarantine…the data demonstrated the value of airport testing in enabling travel while minimizing the risk to public health.”

Karousos said Cyprus was the first country to implement testing at airports and the first country in the European Union to classify countries according to their epidemiological risk.

“And the first country to implement the dedicated electronic platform for registering all necessary information (Cyprus Flight Pass) which has been copied by various other countries at European level”.

He argued; “This led to us having a good epidemiological picture, which in turn, is the reason why Cyprus has regained the trust of tour operators who have reinstated flights and holiday packages.”

The minister said that he had proposed the creation of a European electronic platform (flight pass) to his EU counterparts

“This can act as a database to help EU countries to better respond in the event of a coronavirus case detected among travellers…we have proposed further investments to set up laboratories at airports that can deliver fast results,” said Karousos.

Karousos also told MPs that since flights resumed in June, 80,000 coronavirus tests have been carried out at Larnaca and Paphos airports with 172 passengers testing positive.

A total of 50,000 of the 80,000 tests were random with 44 positive COVID-19 cases detected.

Cyprus randomly tests passenger arrivals from countries that don’t need to provide a negative COVID-19 certificate before travelling.

Cypriots have the option of being tested on arrival, from countries where a negative result is required, at a cost of €60.