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COVID19: Time to stop tourist arrivals

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After weeks of coronavirus seemingly under control, daily cases below 100 and no new deaths reported, hospitalisations at low levels, the recent spike calls for drastic measures to prevent a new wave this summer.

Under public pressure in the run-up to the May 30 parliamentary elections and the need for students to return to class, health authorities eased restrictions imposed in the fight to combat Covid-19.

Undoubtedly, the best weapon has been the national vaccination programme, despite the worrying presence of naysayers and indifference among younger people.

According to hospital officials, most patients seeking treatment are unvaccinated and mainly below 40 years of age.

The scientific community warns the new Delta variant that spread like wildfire in India, took Britain by a storm and is most prevalent among younger people, six to eight times more contagious,

Cyprus may have no choice but to seriously reconsider imposing harsher controls at the airports from where a handful of new infections have been crawling in daily.

Appeals by our tourism officials to place Cyprus among the ‘green list’ safe destinations for British holidaymakers have fallen on deaf ears, and we may not see any tourist from the UK this summer.

Furthermore, the alleged declaration by Russia that it, too, would consider Cyprus as a safe travel country was unfounded, despite the hyperbole and assurances by government officials of impending resumption of charter flights.

Instead, Russian tourists opt for resorts in Turkey, where the epidemiological situation is far worse than in Cyprus.

Ultimately, that means Russia is once again punishing Cyprus for its political decisions.

Moscow is responding the way it knows best by stopping the flow of tourists and the stream of revenue.

The government can no longer afford any other furlough scheme, which is why it tolerated the pressure from hoteliers and the wider leisure industry to re-open and abolish number-based restrictions.

It is even pondering whether to allow the removal of face masks in all public areas.

This would be the gravest mistake, as coronavirus spreading could have a snowball effect, especially during summer, and permanently damage the island’s tourism and health reputation.

With minimal tourist arrivals from the traditional markets of Britain and Russia, now would be the best time to impose stricter controls at airports, contain the spread of imported infections, and allow only necessary entries, mainly work-related.

Cyprus society has proved too complacent with the improving state of health up to a few weeks ago, suggesting if we cannot control the spread due to the stupidity of some and the greed of others, regardless of repercussions, the only way left is to keep the enemy at the gates.

Hotel, restaurant, and bar operators seem to be making do with mainly local customers.

So, surviving another summer with fewer foreign tourists may not be a bad thing after all if this is the only way to protect our leisure industry.

This way, we will at least benefit from better prices for weekend breaks or find seating at restaurants more easily.