COVID19: Turkish Cypriots unable to stop virus spreading

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Health experts warn the pandemic will take a turn for the worse if Turkish Cypriot authorities are unable to blunt a spike in COVID-19 infections across the Cyprus divide.

According to data released on Tuesday evening, Turkish Cypriot health authorities recorded another 21 COVID-19 cases, raising their total to 628.

This contrasts starkly with the Republic of Cyprus which is keeping COVID cases below double figures.

A member of the epidemiological team of experts advising authorities on the coronavirus outbreak, Dr Derlen Ozgec Ruso, said the north is witnessing the spread of the virus in the local community.

“Local infections are increasing and are to increase further. Once winter comes along with cases of seasonal illnesses taking off, there will be a state of chaos,” said Ruso.

The expert took a shot at the Turkish Cypriot ruling coalition, arguing that “the increase in cases we are witnessing is the result of wrong policies implemented”.

Infections in the Turkish Cypriot community have been out of control since the beginning of the month with a spike of 297 new cases reported in the first half of September.

During the same period, the Republic has reported a much lower 52 cases this month.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus in the community, authorities in the north have stepped up measures while introducing fines for the first time for individual COVID offenders.

Authorities in the north also reinstated a partial lockdown until October 1 to control the pandemic with the majority of school students not returning to school, and a number of entertainment establishments shut down.

People will now be fined for breaking their quarantine, not wearing a mask in crowded places, or keeping to social distancing rule.

Fines range from €40 for not wearing a mask to €2000 for breaking quarantine laws. The minimum wage in the north is around €405.

Turkish Cypriots are also denying entry to foreigners from Wednesday until Sunday, as imported cases from Turkey have proven to be the source of the virus’ resurgence in the north.

According to an official count in the north, 520 cases were reported since July 1 when the north opened its ports of entry to travellers, arriving mainly from coronavirus-struck Turkey.

Passengers from Turkey have been of particular concern as the country has reported a total of 294,620 cases and 7,186 deaths, while the average number of daily cases in September has been above 1600.

Turkey reported another 1,742 new COVID-19 cases and 67 deaths on Tuesday.

Before opening up its ports of entry, the north had seen a 75-day lull reporting zero cases since April 17.