Cyprus police are investigating a group of COVID-defiers who live-streamed on social media partying at a Limassol restaurant, publicly flouting Health Ministry decrees and taunting the force.
A woman dancing in the video clips and a restaurant employee were slapped with €300 fines while police try to identify other people present at the gathering.
A police source told the Financial Mirror that the taverna owner had been charged for violating COVID measures; he also faces charges for not acquiring all necessary operating licenses.
The user posting the footage on Instagram added comments mocking COVID-19 decrees, which forbid customers at hospitality venues to leave their seats and dance around the table while taunting the authorities by adding an image of a police car.
In comments to the Reporter news website, the establishment’s owner claimed his taverna did not break any rules and asked the group to leave once the dancing started.
The footage comes just days after Health Ministry data showed Limassol’s epidemiological performance had pushed Cyprus further into the high-risk dark red zone, as classified by EU health authorities.
Last week, the government criticised Limassolians after hundreds of COVID-defiers had attended a street party at the Marina to celebrate the carnival, defying a ban on mass gatherings.
In a public address, President Nicos Anastasiades was forced to urge Limassol residents to comply with measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, warning of tougher restrictions if they don’t.
He said that despite the successful management of a catastrophic pandemic, the recent behaviour of a minority undermined society, “posing a visible danger to what we have achieved together”.
Anastasiades expressed his reluctance but said he was obligated to intervene due to the “unacceptable” events in Limassol, where people gathered for a carnival party.
Limassol is at the epicentre of a spike in coronavirus cases and transmission, undoing Cyprus’ progress to contain the virus.
Cyprus’ 14-day cumulative diagnosis rate of COVID-19 per 100,000 population – which reflects the number of active cases – is 529.6, which puts it in the danger zone.
The case rate had doubled since March 5, when it was at 263.5 per 100,000.
And for Limassol, the cumulative diagnosis rate is a troubling 1126.5, five times higher than the rest of Cyprus.
Restaurants, cafes, and bars got the green light to reopen on March 16 under strict restrictions.
Hospitality is only allowed to accommodate people in outdoor facilities, while customers must be seated at all times.
According to the police, eight hospitality venues across the island were fined on Saturday night; the first Saturday hospitality was allowed to operate under tight measures.
Establishments were fined for not comply with social distancing regulations, an excessive number of customers, seating customers indoors and insufficient ventilation.
On the spot, fines from €500 to €1,000 were issued to owners of the establishments.