COVID19: Turkish Cypriots impose tough lockdown

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Turkish Cypriot authorities introduced a harsh lockdown across the Turkish occupied north on Friday, after a record 80 COVID-19 cases the day before, the third successive high.

Authorities in the north reported 62 cases on Tuesday and 71 on Wednesday with cases in February reaching 259, following January’s record 713 coronavirus infections.

The 10-day lockdown decision came on Thursday night while authorities had been planning to lift some measures in Nicosia and Kyrenia which were under local lockdowns.

Under more stringent rules, Turkish Cypriots are not allowed to leave their homes during an 8 pm to 5 am curfew while travel between districts is prohibited.

Measures are to last until 15 February with all non-essential businesses instructed to close while banks will shut from 8 -12 February.

Essential businesses like supermarkets and petrol stations can remain open until 5 pm while on Sundays all businesses must close except for pharmacists.

Restaurants and other hospitality venues will have to close entirely with no takeaway or delivery service.

Authorities will step up testing after ordering 150,000 PCR test kits while increasing testing stations.

Turkish Cypriot authorities have yet to adopt rapid antigen tests as in the Republic.

On Wednesday, authorities were forced to shut down testing stations due to an overwhelming turnout, without announcing how testing will resume.

In what was perceived as proof of their despair, head of health services in the north, Ali Pilli, urged the public to remain at home as “we cannot bring the pandemic under control”.

The ruling coalition in the north has come under heavy fire from opposition parties and the public, for not implementing lockdown measures earlier.

They warned that a failure to do so will incur a hefty price as hospital admission and death rates are expected to rise.

The north has so far in February reported 259, bringing the total of cases since the beginning of the pandemic to 2,584 and 14 deaths.

Republic of Cyprus health authorities has confirmed 31,379 COVID-19 cases and 205 deaths since the outbreak.

Divided Cyprus now has a combined 33,963 cases and 219 deaths.