COVID19: Ministers intervene after Cyprus on ‘no fly’ lists

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Three government ministers have written to travel and airline companies to set the record straight on how Cyprus is controlling the spread of the virus and to make a case why travellers should pick the island for their holidays.

In a letter sent to international partners, Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos and Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios, tried to ‘clear the air’ of doubts over Cyprus being a safe and accessible destination for tourists.

The move comes after health authorities in the United States issued a “Do Not Travel” warning for Cyprus earlier this week, warning US citizens against visiting the island due to high levels of COVID-19.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for Cyprus, essentially advising against travel to the island indicating a very high level of COVID-19.

The three ministers argued that Cyprus’ vaccination and testing rates are amongst the best in Europe, while adding that the positivity rate is much lower compared to other nations as it typically stands at about just one per cent.

Cyprus, along with nearly all of Europe, is expected to be included in the UK’s “amber list”, meaning that Britons who travelled to the island will have to go into self-isolation for ten days upon their return home.

A tourism junior ministry source told the Financial Mirror that, “by comparison, most countries in the EU report a positivity rate ranging from 3 to 15%.

Closer to home, Italy’s rate is 7%, Portugal 8.5% and Croatia was at 18.1%. But comparing such data between countries can be sketchy and unfair on Cyprus due to a wide variation in testing policies.

The ministers also argue in their letter that Cyprus has a very high testing rate, ranking among the top in the world when it comes to testing, especially the national rapid testing programme.

“For example, Greece with a population of close to 11 million has carried out about 7.5 million tests whereas the Republic of Cyprus, with a population of 900,000, has performed about 4.6 million tests,” the source said.

They explained that this would mean that proportionally Cyprus will be identifying a far higher number of positives compared to other countries.

In their letter, the ministers also argued that Cyprus has managed one of the fastest vaccination drives in the EU, and aspires to vaccinate 60% of its population by the end of June wit the first of two doses.