The government on Wednesday reintroduced the use of the Safe Pass for outdoor and indoor hospitality and other venues where people gather in large numbers to stem a new outbreak of COVID-19.
With cases on the rise, peaking at 823 on Tuesday, the cabinet decided that some restrictive measures needed to be reintroduced.
In a written statement, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas said authorities are concerned as most new cases arise from places where younger people gather in large numbers and at social events.
Hadjipantelas said: “More than 90% of COVID cases either have not completed their vaccination or have no history of vaccination, raising concerns about virus mutations and spread in the community”.
The Health Minister is worried that the vast majority of hospital patients are unvaccinated.
From 9-31 July, the maximum number of people indoors will be 250 after presenting a Safe Pass, or 350 provided all guests have received at least one vaccination jab three weeks earlier or contracted the virus within the past six months.
The maximum number of people permitted in outdoor venues is 350 with a Safe Pass, or 500 if they have received at least one dose of a vaccine or had Covid in the past six months.
A Safe Pass can be proof of vaccination, recovery from the disease in the past six months, or a negative PCR or rapid test not older than 72 hours.
Children between the ages of 12 and 15 and people over 16 with health issues preventing them from taking a vaccine will have to present a negative COVID test.
The Safe Pass is needed at restaurants, events or reception halls, nightclubs, entertainment venues, music and dance venues, bars, discos, theatres, amphitheatres, theatres, cinemas, religious places and stadiums, excluding football stadiums.
Businesses can choose to cater solely to vaccinated people or those who have recovered from the virus but will have to install a sign informing customers.
Furthermore, businesses will have to carry out Safe Pass checks, with the owner of the establishment responsible for any failure to comply with health protocols.
No free tests
To increase pressure on people who have yet to be vaccinated, Cyprus will abolish its free testing program from 1 August.
PCR or rapid tests will only be carried out at private labs and pharmacies.
The maximum charge for a rapid antigen test is €20.
People choosing not to get jabbed will have to dig deep into their pockets to pay for tests needed for work, football grounds, hospitality venues and social gatherings.
A health specialist told the Financial Mirror that authorities are on the right track by abolishing the free testing program but need to step up checks for the measure to pay off.
Pulmonologist Dr Charis Armeftis, stationed at the COVID-19 ward in Limassol General Hospital, told the Financial Mirror the virus has gone unchecked.
“The situation is out of hand, as measures are not observed, and there is no surveillance from the authorities,” said Dr Armeftis.
“The only reason we do not have a lot of people being intubated is the relatively high vaccination rate.
“People who have not been vaccinated run a high risk of needing to be hospitalised and intubated.”
Attributing the new outbreak to the more contagious Delta variant, Dr Armeftis said vaccines prevent people from getting seriously ill.
He argued that everyone has the choice not to get vaccinated, but unvaccinated people should be aware they are endangering lives.
“Mutations happen among people who have not been vaccinated.
“The appearance of mutations such as the Delta or Lambda variants threatens to delay the return to normality but also put more lives at risk.”