COVID19: Face coverings return after short reprieve

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Cypriots are back to wearing face coverings indoors, as a mask mandate was reinstated on Friday, following a new surge of COVID-19 cases with hospitalisations increasing.

All travellers over 12 at Cyprus airports must wear a face covering, as will people visiting hospitality venues and shops.

Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela believes the public will abide by the measures because “if we wish to protect ourselves and our loved ones, we have no choice but to wear our masks”.

On Friday, the ministry released data showing that in the first week of July, some 14,914 positive cases were recorded from 111,137 tests (positivity rate: 13.42%).

There were 97 treated in hospitals and eight in a more serious condition.

A ministry source confirmed to the Financial Mirror that daily cases were between 2,000 and 3,000, “out of a smaller than the usual number of tests”.

Exceptions to the mandate are households, people actively eating or drinking, those driving alone or in a vehicle with other members of the same household, exercising (sports), chefs and cooks (only during the cooking process), and those with health conditions.

The fine for violating the mask mandate is €300.

Hadjipantela said face coverings were brought back as people who tested positive were circulating in closed areas without a mask.

A face mask mandate was one of the last COVID-19 measures to be lifted on 1 June, only for authorities to make the U-turn a month later.

On 28 June, face masks were reintroduced for visiting pharmacies, clinical labs, and government testing sites for COVID-19.

Face coverings must also be worn when visiting hospitals, nursing homes, and public transport.

Many scientists wanted to reinstate the mask following a new surge in COVID cases and hospitalisations, attributed to the prevalence of highly infectious Omicron subvariants BA4 and BA5.

Authorities were hesitant about reinstating the face mask amid the peak tourist season, fearing loss of arrivals, especially when neighbouring destinations do not have a mask mandate.

Since the pandemic started in March 2020, Coronavirus infections reached 530,510 and 1,079 deaths.

Face masks indoors were first imposed against the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in August 2020.