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21 September, 2020
 
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Arrivals keep divided Cyprus on toes

Fears grow as passengers go undetected, reliability on the line after false negative results sent through SMS

Newsroom

Discussions on virus risks are taking place publicly between officials and health experts on both sides of the divided island, with the north scrambling to find the right formula before July 1 and the south moving to correct a number of issues.

Officials in the Republic of Cyprus bumped Bulgaria from first to second category this week, after two passengers on the same flight tested positive for the coronavirus.

Health expert breaks ranks: “test them all’

The passengers were not flying together and were not seated near each other on the plane, reports said, prompting a Greek Cypriot health expert on a government advisory team to raise alarm hours after Tuesday's flight.

Infectious disease specialist Maria Koliou broke ranks with her team and told a television programme she would email her colleagues about her concerns, namely recommending that all arriving passengers get tested, including travelers from countries found on a list under the low-risk category A.

North still looking for "Turkey formula"

In the north, a debate was raging on as to whether passengers arriving from Turkey could enter the country without an additional test or quarantine requirement.

While a plan had been agreed to allow travelers from Turkey to come to the north without additional restrictions, some officials pointed out the decision had been taken much earlier before new data was available.

This week, Turkish Cypriot media reported that officials did not believe there was an issue of whether passengers would be allowed to come to Cyprus but a question under what criteria, such as showing a valid test certificate at the port of entry and possibly other measures.

North and south keep each other in check

Officials in the north also cried foul over the south's imposing measures on Turkish Cypriots crossing into the Republic, saying Greek Cypriot authorities were asking for test certificates from people in the north where there have been zero cases, while allowing passengers from countries where there are confirmed known cases to come though without additional measures.

At the same time, health experts in the south have recently expressed reservations over the zero cases continuously reported in the north, saying the Republic of Cyprus has been testing five times more samples in the south to get a more accurate picture.

Bombshell over SMS with false test results

But the strong numbers in the south were not without criticism, with the auditor general of the Republic this week telling a House committee that there have been complaints from citizens who got a text message notification about testing negative without ever having given a sample in the first place.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said his office was perturbed over the allegations and ordered an immediate probe into the matter.

Some local media speculated the false test results could have been a result of wrong phone numbers provided by citizens who inquired about testing, while a number of MPs said the revelations could cast doubts over the reliability of testing in the Republic.

TAGS
Cyprus  |  health  |  coronavirus  |  public health  |  north  |  south  |  Greek  |  Turkish  |  Cypriot  |  travel  |  passengers  |  tourism  |  Koliou

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