COVID19: Lockdown triggers half-million requests to leave home

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Day one of the second lockdown imposed in Cyprus to contain coronavirus saw 472,000 text requests sent from people wanting to leave their homes on Sunday.

According to the Deputy Ministry of Innovation, overseeing the SMS platform, 137,945 requests concerned shopping for essentials, and another 122,639 were requests from people who wanted to go out for exercise.

But 94,000 requests were rejected by the system with the Ministry of Innovation attributing the issue to people texting a request with the wrong format, indicating that people were not properly informed.

Cyprus residents are only allowed to leave their home twice a day, apart from going to work.

Leaving the home now requires approval from the authorities through a texting platform or calling a government hotline.

People can obtain approval by sending a text message or SMS free of charge to 8998, the number was introduced during the first lockdown in March.

Citizens need to send in a message containing the number that indicates the reason they wish to leave their home, their national ID card or passport, and their area postcode.

Specifically, the structure of the message should be as follows:

X (number corresponding to the reason for movement) [space] Identification number [space] Home Postcode.

The Χ stands for a number between 1 and 8 that corresponds to the reason for leaving the house.

These numbers are:

  • 1: Leaving the house to visit a pharmacy, doctor’s visit, blood donation or to get tested for COVID-19
  • 2: Shopping for supplies/services, including takeaway
  • 3: Visiting a bank, if an online transaction is not possible
  • 4: Visits to government departments, wider public sector, or local administration
  • 5: To help people who cannot look after themselves or are in quarantine
  • 6: Physical exercise or individual training provided access is allowed at the desired venue. Only people from Nicosia can travel to another district for swimming in the sea
  • 7: To attend a funeral, wedding, christening, or private prayer. This applies only for first- and second-degree relatives, not more than 10 people can be present at any given ceremony.
  • 8: Any other reason that can be justified on the basis of the restrictions. Reasons include divorced or estranged parents who need to travel to see or pick-up their children, carry any evidence, such as a court order. Taking a soldier to and from their army camp, or transferring a passenger to the airport

Cypriot citizens should use their ID card while European citizens and third-country nationals their Alien Registration Number (ARC) or their registration certificate or residence permit, or their passport or identity card number, diplomatic passport number.

Once citizens send in their request, they will receive an SMS from the authorities which will either approve or reject the request.

Requests can be rejected for exceeding the maximum number of movements allowed, for not complying with the curfew limitation, or the request was not structured in the proper manner.

Approval is valid for three hours, a period which the Health Ministry has deemed a reasonable period for all types of movement.

People must carry their identity card, passport or other identification documents in case they are stopped by police.

Those who for some reason cannot use the 8998 texting platform can alternatively call 80012012 from Cypriot phone numbers and +357 22 285777 from foreign numbers, from 5 am to 9 pm.

The latest set of restrictions were imposed to stem the surge of coronavirus cases which have brought the country’s health system a step closer to collapse.

On Sunday, 208 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals, of which 55 are in a serious condition.