COVID19: Turkish Cypriot restrictions dampens cases

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Turkish Cypriot health authorities are making progress in bringing down daily cases of COVID-19 after imposing travel restrictions and lockdown measures.

Turkish Cypriots were struggling to contain cases since they spiralled out of control in September, as infections reached 320 with a daily average of 19 cases this month.

Cases reached their peak on 8 September, when authorities announced a shocking 38 cases.

According to data released on Thursday evening, there were 12 cases taking the total of COVID-19 cases to 651.

The course of the virus in the north during September contrasts starkly with the Republic of Cyprus which had kept COVID cases below double figures for more than two weeks up until Thursday.

During September, the Republic has reported a much lower 70 cases.

Cases in the north have been brought down after authorities in the Turkish occupied north announced a lockdown of the airport, also reintroducing a set of restrictive measures such as closing down entertainment establishments.

Ercan Airport (Tymbou) is currently closed to foreign travellers at least until Sunday.

Authorities in the north also reinstated a partial lockdown until October 1 to control the pandemic with the majority of students not returning to school.

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.

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

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”.

According to an official count in the north, 543 cases were reported since July 1 when the north opened its ports of entry to travellers, arriving mainly from coronavirus-struck Turkey.

Turkey reported another 1,648 new COVID-19 cases and 66 deaths on Thursday.

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