COVID19: Turkish Cypriots lockdown north Nicosia, Kyrenia

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Authorities in the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus have put Nicosia and Kyrenia on lockdown while re-instating a 10 pm curfew as January becomes the worst COVID month on record.

January is the worst month of the pandemic for Turkish Cypriots with cases reaching a record 497 cases and 7 deaths.

As a result, authorities announced they will impose a lockdown on the districts of north Nicosia and Kyrenia as of Tuesday midnight, closing non-essential businesses and reinstating a 10 pm to 5 am curfew across the north.

The lockdown in Nicosia will last until 3 February while Kyrenia will remain isolated until 10 February.

The decision to put Kyrenia and north Nicosia on lockdown was ratified by the ruling coalition on Tuesday afternoon, after the north’s health chief Ali Pilli told reporters of their intentions.

Pilli justified the decision on the record number of cases and COVID-19 patients needing to be hospitalised.

“We might have a state-of-the-art pandemic hospital, but if we have 30 cases or more each day, then we will not be able to cater to patients needing hospitalisation,” said Pilli.

He argued that the situation in the north got out of hand because a large number of close contacts of known cases only come forward when they fall ill.

Imposing local lockdowns has caused a fierce reaction from the opposition parties calling it a risky move.

The leader of the main opposition party, the Turkish Republican Party (CTP) Tufan Erhurman cited reports of heavy traffic leaving Nicosia and Kyrenia heading for Famagusta and Trikomo.

“Just like in Italy, when authorities closed off a number of cities, people had made it out heading for other cities, taking the virus with them”.

Turkish Cypriot authorities are relying on COVID-19 vaccines from China with vaccinations starting on 15 January after 20,000 vaccines came from Turkey and 2,000 EU doses through the Cyprus Republic.

The north will be primarily using vaccines made by Chinese pharmaceutical Sinovac, a vaccine yet to be approved by the EU, but has been reported to have 78% efficacy against the coronavirus.

Turkish Cypriots expect 500,000 doses of the vaccine to be delivered.

It will also receive more vaccines from the EU, through the Republic of Cyprus.

Turkish Cypriots have so far reported 2,071 COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths.