COVID19: Over a million leave home requests in 3 days of lockdown

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Cypriots sent over a million requests to leave their homes during the first three days of the lockdown to stem a surge of coronavirus cases, peaking at 907 cases in December.

Cyprus went into a three-week lockdown on January 10 in a bid to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic as new cases over the Christmas period surged putting the health system under pressure.

Restrictions in place allow for people to go to work if they have to or to leave their house twice per day after obtaining permission via SMS for specific reasons.

According to an update by the Deputy Ministry of Innovation, a total of 1,073,961 SMS were approved by the 8998-texting platform from Sunday to Tuesday.

On Tuesday, a total of 346,676 were approved by the Deputy Ministry while 349,086 requests were given the green light on Monday and another 378,199 on Sunday.

The majority of requests are for food or other essential shopping and take-aways.

Grocery shopping remains the most popular category for which people ask permission to leave their homes, with exercise second.

Out of a total of 346,676 SMS approved on Tuesday 126,118 (36%) were for the purchase of goods or essential items, including takeaway while 85,439 (25%) were for physical exercise and 64,965 (19%) for “other reasons’’.

Other reasons include, among others, the movement of divorced or estranged parents, going for specialised therapies for chronic diseases or disabilities, and going out to care or feed stray animals.

On Tuesday, another 22,576 SMS were approved for people who wished to help others who cannot take care of themselves or people in self-isolation.

A total of 34,320 SMS were approved for a visit to a pharmacy or doctor, 6,065 SMS were approved for trips to public sector services, 5,983 for trips to the bank and 1,210 for attending a religious service including individual prayer.

People need to send in a message containing the number indicating the reason they wish to leave their home, 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 of 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.

The numbered reasons are:

1) Leaving the house to visit a pharmacy or doctor visit, or blood bank for donation or to get tested for COVID-19

2) Shopping for supplies/services, including take-aways

3) Visiting a Bank if an online transaction is not possible

4) Absolutely necessary visits to government departments or departments of the 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 exercise or swimming in the sea

7) To attend a funeral, wedding, christening, or private prayer. This applies only for first- and second-degree relatives, while 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, provided they have sent their SMS and carry any evidence, such as a court order. Taking a soldier to and from their army camp, or transferring a passenger to the airport

Cypriots should use their ID card number 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

The number of new SARS-CoV-2 cases continued to decline for the 14th consecutive day on Tuesday, decreasing to 259 while authorities also announced the deaths of four COVID-19 patients.

This raised total infections since the pandemic started to 27,897 and 157 deaths.