Turkish Cypriots are feeling the brunt of the second wave of coronavirus as new cases shot up to a staggering 70 on Monday, the highest for two months.
The spike is in line with an increase in recent weeks after Turkish Cypriot health authorities reported a record 1009 COVID-19 cases in March, but no deaths since February.
During the second wave of coronavirus, cases have been steadily climbing to 991 in February, from 751 in January and 466 in December in the Turkish occupied north.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in the north has reached 4,628, while 26 deaths have been recorded.
An increase in cases in the north is attributed to many coronavirus variants found in recent months.
Scientists in the north have found eight different variants infecting Turkish Cypriots.
They have detected the following variants: B.11.209 (Netherlands), B.1.1 (USA), B.1.1.82 (Wales), B.1.1.162 (Australia) and B.1 (Italy).
The more potent UK variants (B.1.1.29, B.1.258 and B.1.1.7) are the most common in the north and have been present since December.
The 70 new infections on Monday came as authorities started relaxing a harsh lockdown, similar to the one imposed in the Republic from 10 January.
A ban on movement between districts was lifted, while a strict 10 pm to 5 am night curfew will remain in effect for another week.
Approval must be obtained online to leave one’s residence or travel to another region during curfew hours.
Businesses are allowed to operate under strict guidelines on weekdays; only essential businesses and open-air markets may operate on Saturdays; all businesses except pharmacies and petrol stations are closed on Sundays.
Theatres, cinemas, concert halls, wedding halls, casinos, bars, taverns, shisha cafes, internet cafes, indoor kid play areas, indoor swimming pools, massage centres, spas, indoor sports halls, clubs, hammams, and saunas remain closed.
Restaurants are open between 7:00 am and 9:00 pm on weekdays on the condition that all employees undergo weekly PCR tests.
Other retail shops can open between 10:00 am and 8:00 pm on weekdays.
Restaurants began providing outdoor dine-in services from March 15 between 7:00 am and 9:00 pm, Monday through Saturday.
School students, except those in their final year, have yet to return to class.
Turkish Cypriots are banking on the Chinese Sinovac vaccine sent from Turkey and EU-approved vaccines delivered from the Republic of Cyprus.
So far, Turkish Cypriots have received 100,000 vaccines from Turkey and another 10,000 from the Republic.
Since the outbreak last year, divided Cyprus has reported a combined 52,906 COVID-19 cases and 288 deaths.
The Republic of Cyprus has registered 48,278 cases and 262 deaths since March last year.