COVID19: Move to open crossings after 15 months

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Crossing points across Cyprus’ divide could open on Friday, after 15 months of being closed during the COVID-19 lockdown emergency.

Government spokesperson Kyriacos Koushos said that the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides had reached an in-principle agreement over the reopening of crossing points.

The development came after a meeting between Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis, the Turkish Cypriot leader’s special representative Ergun Olgun and the UN’s special representative Elizabeth Spehar.

However, as Koushos added rules, including what type of Covid-19 certificates people might have to present, will be decided and made public by Wednesday at a second meeting between Koushos, Olgun and Spehar.

“With the reopening of the crossing points, we will be in the same situation we were before the coronavirus pandemic, with the only difference being the presentation of the necessary certificates for Covid-19,” Koushos said.

Mavroyiannis, Olgun and Spehar are set to meet via teleconference again on Wednesday.

“The decision to reopen the crossings will be taken based on the epidemiological data, but opening the crossing points will still be a political decision,” Koushos said.

Since last week, Turkish Cypriot officials have declared that checkpoints would reopen on Monday 31 May, accepting Greek Cypriots who carry a PCR or an antigen test, no older than 72 hours.

Turkish Cypriot media said there were no indications of crossings reopening on Monday at Nicosia’s at Ledra Street or Ayios Dometios.

Restrictions on crossings were introduced on 28 February when the Republic of Cyprus decided to suspend four crossing points (Ledra Street, Astromeritis, Lefka and Dherynia) as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.

Turkish Cypriot authorities then shut all crossing points from mid-March.

Aside from short and isolated reopenings and permission granted to workers and students from the north to cross for daily tasks, crossings have been shut ever since.

Turkish Cypriot health authorities reported a sharp increase in daily COVID-19 cases on Monday, as cases jumped from 11 the previous day to over one hundred, as 105 samples out of 8,539 returned a positive result.

Some 85 cases out of the 105 involved workers at a construction site living on the premises.

Monday’s 105 cases take the tally in the north to 7320 and 33 deaths.

On the other hand, the republic kept its cases in double digits, as health authorities reported just 50 cases, pushing the tally to 72,457. Deaths reported since the beginning of the pandemic in March last year have reached 360.

Combined, divided Cyprus has reported 79,777 and 393 deaths.