A student tested at the Pancyprian high school in Nicosia

COVID19: 80,000 return to work as Cyprus eases lockdown measures

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Cyprus took another step on Monday towards lifting lockdown measures to stem the spread of COVID-19, as more people returned to work, shops reopened and more than half of schools resumed classes, with daily COVID-19 cases dropping to a range of 110 to 130.

The entire retail sector was shut down, civil servants went home and businesses reduced their on-site workforce to 20% when the second lockdown was imposed on January 10, after daily infection reports spiralled to a record 907 on December 29.

Following a gradual easing of some of these measures a week ago, when 50% of staff were allowed back to work, the government relaxed some more measures, giving some relief to the economy by allowing consumer spending and avoiding further furlough payouts.

All those who returned to work on Monday, including teachers and school staff, should have secured a negative result from the national antigen rapid test programme that peaked on Sunday with 40,974 tests at 59 centres.

On Sunday Cyprus reported one more death and 115 new COVID-19 cases with the rapid tests reporting a positivity rate of 0.28%.

After barbershops, hair and nail salons were allowed to re-open last week, it was the turn of 60,000 elementary school students and the graduating classes of the lyceum high schools and institutes to resume physical classes, while other the grades will continue with online education.

Rapid tests are not mandatory for students.


Cinemas can re-open, but no new movies

Also getting the green light to reopen are cinemas and theatres which can host up to 50 people. However, according to sources, cinemas will not be open due to lack of new releases from the film industry.

Churchgoers are allowed to partake in masses, as long as they do not exceed 50 people at a time.

Betting shops also opened on Monday morning, but punters will only be allowed to place their bet and leave.

House visits have increased to four people at a time, up from two allowed a week ago.

The 9 pm-5 am curfew remains in place with people still limited to leaving their homes twice a day.

Authorities have added the number 9 to the list of SMS requests sent to the portal 8998 which can be used for a visit to hairdressers and beauticians. Salons will require an appointment in advance. For house visits, people will have to send ‘5’.

People wanting to catch a play need to send in an SMS with the number 9.

Outings to Troodos and other nature trails are still banned, while hospitality venues are not included in Monday’s relaxations.

As of Monday, gym instructors will be allowed to train groups of four at a time in open areas such as parks, while second division football clubs can put together team trainings with their league set to resume on 13 February.

Lower division squads will be allowed to train in groups of five, including the trainer.


3-day quarantine for arriving passengers

Meanwhile, as of Saturday, people arriving at Larnaca and Paphos airports from category A and B countries need to self-isolate for three days and undertake a PCR test for coronavirus upon ending their quarantine.

Previously, passengers from category A destinations did not need to present a negative PCR test to enter, while those from category B countries required one, but did not need to self-isolate.

Following concerns over new potent strains of coronavirus infiltrating Europe, Cyprus health authorities have decided to step up measures for arrivals at the country’s airports.

The decision was taken bearing in mind evidence of increased transmissibility and aggressive spread of the new SARS-CoV-2 variants, known as the ‘British strain’ and the ‘South African strain’.