COVID19: More schools open, indoor exercise allowed

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Students yet to return to school will be going back gradually from Monday, while private lessons and extra curriculum activities are back on but under limited numbers.

Gyms and dance schools are to reopen under conditions, while reopening for restaurants was pushed back to 16 March.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou on Thursday announced another three stages of the roadmap of easing out of a national lockdown imposed in January to contain the second wave of COVID-19.

The Minister noted that easing out of the lockdown would be a slow and controlled process depending on the epidemiological data.

“The Cabinet, remaining committed to its assessment that relaxations need to be carried out smoothly, carefully and in a controlled manner, took the decisions after evaluating epidemiological data of the past two weeks,” said Ioannou.

He argued that the situation is under control, but Cyprus is above the safety benchmark of 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, set by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) with 164.3 cases per 100,000.

1 – 8 March

State and private Lyceum, technical school students, return to class Monday, March 1, to join final-year pupils.

From Monday music and private tutoring schools will be allowed to resume operations but only with the physical presence of two people (one tutor and one student).

Gyms, dance schools and other indoor sports facilities, including swimming pools, will also be able to resume operations based on the instructions and protocol to be issued by the Cyprus Sports Organisation.

Gyms and dance schools can cater to one person for 80 square metres with an instructor, from 80-200 sqm the maximum is 3 and above 200 sqm the maximum is five.

Galleries and other art spaces can also reopen, while nursing homes can have visitors.

Access to nature trails for exercise will also be allowed from Monday, while street vending and flea markets for the sale of items other than food can operate.

People are still only allowed to leave their home twice a day, with a 9 pm to 5 am curfew remaining in place.

All high school (gymnasium) students will return to their classrooms.

Restaurants are to be allowed to resume full operations from March 16, said Ioannou, as it is believed that health authorities wanted to avoid opening hospitality amid the festive carnival season.

Vaccinations, tests

Ioannou said: “A key pillar for the success of lifting measures is the proper monitoring of the health protocols.”

He added that along with checks, health authorities will be sticking with mass testing while pushing ahead with the vaccination program.

Cyprus says it leads Europe in the number of daily free tests it conducts to monitor the pandemic.

“In the first three weeks of February, more than 600,000 rapid tests were conducted that provided data on the prevailing picture in the community,” Ioannou told reporters.

He said 70% of people aged over 80 were vaccinated, while Cyprus expects delivery of 160,000 vaccines next month.

Ioannou argued that authorities have been prudent in lifting measures, so they can buy time for the vaccination rollout to cover a large part of the population.

“We need to be patient for a few more weeks” urged the minister.

Vaccinations are expected to reach 300,000 by the end of April and by mid-June 500,000 to 550,000 will have been vaccinated, which is about 70% of the population.

“We are in a fight against time,” the minister said.

A second national lockdown was imposed on January 10 after daily coronavirus cases soared to 907 on December 29.