With the coronavirus pandemic getting out of hand on both sides of the divide, Turkish Cypriots are on the verge of recording the worst month to date as regards new COVID-19 cases.
With just three days to go to the end of the month, the Turkish Cypriot health authorities have recorded 400 cases so far in December, eight shy of the previous high recorded in September.
Authorities in the north announced another 14 cases of SARS-CoV-2 on Monday, raising the total to 1,506.
On the other side of the divide, health authorities of the Republic of Cyprus seem to be fighting a losing battle as case numbers broke the 20,000 barrier on Monday to peak at 20,408 with a record 751 new daily infections.
A total of 9,843 cases were recorded in December and 64 of the 113 COVID-19 deaths occurring this month alone.
Divided Cyprus has now reported a total of 21,914 COVID-19 cases and 119 deaths since the pandemic started.
Turkish Cypriot authorities are particularly concerned over local chains of transmission detected at schools, hospitals and other public service offices.
According to Turkish Cypriot press reports, 13 cases were found at schools on Monday, with an elementary in north Nicosia closing after five teachers and three students were found to be positive.
The teachers’ unions in the north criticised the ruling coalition over the measures it has taken, arguing that they were far from satisfactory to protect schools.
Olgun Amcaoglu, head of the education system in the north, said a February holiday break might be brought forward to limit the contagion among pupils and school staff.
The public hospital in north Nicosia was put on alert after three nurses were diagnosed with the coronavirus, while another 21 were sent home to self-isolate as they were close contacts of the infected nurses.
Local authorities in the village of Lysi near Nicosia said that they had 13 new cases in the past few days.
Authorities were also alerted as three firemen stationed at Tymbou airport (Ercan) were found positive, with local media reporting that the virus may have spread to other facilities at the airport.
Sending out a distress signal, the head of the health services in the north, Ali Pilli said that the health system is expected to come under immense pressure as case numbers rise.
He admitted that the only hope for the community is the vaccine.
Vaccines from Turkey and RoC
Pilli, asked by reporters about the north’s vaccination programme and the start of inoculations in the free areas, said that within 10 days they have vaccines from Turkey.
The head of the north’s health services also acknowledged that the community is to receive a batch of vaccines from the EU, through the Republic of Cyprus.
President Nicos Anastasiades confirmed on Monday that his government is arranging to cover the entire population of the Republic, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike.
“The joint technical committee on health is in consultation. It is a matter of the necessary infrastructure that must exist in the occupied part of our country so that Turkish Cypriots can be supplied with the vaccines,” Anastasiades said in comments after being vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot authorities announced on Friday that measures are being stepped up as cafes and restaurants, betting shops and beauty parlors will be forced to close at 9 pm as of Tuesday.
An earlier decision that closed all nightclubs and other entertainment venues until the end of the year, has been extended to January 4.
Also, a quarantine period for those entering the north from seven to 10 days is in place. People who travel to the north, in addition to presenting a negative PCR test valid for up to 72 hours, must also quarantine for 10 days.
Turkish Cypriot authorities have banned New Year’s celebrations at restaurants and hotels between December 15 and January 1 (both dates included). It was also decided that all street celebrations on New Year’s Eve or other occasions will be banned until January 1, 2021.
On Tuesday morning, health authorities in the Republic of Cyprus decided to ban households from mixing, prohibiting home visits altogether, with the exemption being New Year’s Eve, when up to ten people, including minors, can be present at home celebrations.