COVID19: Muddle after hotels say tourists can move freely

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Confusion over whether tourists have a special status in Cyprus during lockdown emerged on Tuesday after hoteliers declared foreign visitors are not subject to COVID-19 restrictions, other than the curfew.

Tourists are not required to send an SMS to request permission to leave the hotel, nor is there a limit on their outings, but must abide by the 11 pm curfew.

They can travel freely around the island with a permit issued by their hotel or tour operator.

The decision, say, hoteliers, was taken by the Deputy Ministry of Tourism.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, the Director-General of the Cyprus Hotel Association, Philokypros Rousounides, said that hoteliers were happy with the development.

“The Cyprus Hotel Association welcomes the deputy ministry’s decision, as, without relaxations for tourists, Cyprus would not be able to attract any tourism this year.

“We needed to provide tourists with the opportunity to carry out a holiday in Cyprus, to go to the beach, visit restaurants and travel around the island,” said Rousounides.

He pointed out that tourists who carry mobile phones from abroad do not have access to the 8998-texting platform that grants permission to leave home.

Rousounides confirmed that tourists would be given a letter of confirmation from their hotels or tour operators who sold them their package.

However, the Deputy Ministry of Tourism appeared to disagree with hoteliers.

It said that the matter was wrongly presented, as according to a previous cabinet decision, tourists are not to receive privileged treatment.

“What goes for Cypriots should go for tourists. That is the guideline given by authorities,” a ministry source told the Financial Mirror.

The source confirmed the deputy ministry has been looking at ways to facilitate tourists but has in no way suggested that tourists should be given more freedoms than Cypriots.

The Financial Mirror contacted Health Ministry spokesperson Margarita Kyriacou who was unaware of the issue but referred to the cabinet decision that tourists should not get privileged status.

Cyprus has recently opened up to tourist markets by lifting quarantine restrictions for visitors from Russia, Israel, the UK, Lebanon and other non-EU countries.