The President’s Cabinet in the Republic of Cyprus has added a few finishing touches on its latest Safe Pass measures as daily COVID cases continue to rise, with the government allowing more flexibility for businesses willing to cater to people who are vaccinated but also drawing criticism.
Health Minister Michael Hadjipantela announced on Wednesday additional measures aimed at stopping further spread of coronavirus, following a decision last week that re-introduced Safe Pass to outdoor places where crowds tend to gather.
A Safe Pass can be used by individuals to prove that they have been vaccinated, recovered from a coronavirus infection, or tested negative in a rapid test valid for 72 hours.
More people allowed if everyone is jabbed
According to Hadjipantela, starting Friday July 9 through July 31, the maximum number of people gathering in indoor and outdoor spaces will be 250 and 350 respectively, while that number jumps to 350 and 500 respectively if all persons have been vaccinated at least with one dose three weeks earlier or have recovered from COVID in the mast six months.
The new rules basically leave it up to business establishments -restaurants, nightclubs, bars, theaters and cinemas, places of worship and stadiums but not football stadiums- to decide whether to have cater to fewer customers or exclude those who are not vaccinated or do not have proof of recovery from infection.
Those not eligible for a vaccine due to serious medical issues may still use show a negative result from a PCR or rapid antigen test valid for 72 hours.
The Cabinet also decided that businesses that choose to allow only customers who show proof of vaccination or recovery will be required to display in a legible manner their policy in the entrance.
Owners told to check Safe Pass at the door
Business owners will be ultimately responsible to ensure all the latest Safe Pass measures and health protocols are being followed by the public, while police officers and qualified government administrators will still have permission to carry out inspections.
The measures come as daily infections comminuted to rise this week, with 952 cases recorded on Wednesday, marking a new record since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
According to an official press release, there were 44,045 tests carried out Wednesday, with the positivity rate rising to 2.16 and overall total of cases in the Republic of Cyprus climbing to 80,588.
No deaths were attributed to COVID-19 as the cause of death, while total hospitalizations rose to 93, 27 of which 27 were being treated in intensive care but only 10 of those were patients who had to be intubated.
The latest measures were decided after reports said many chains of infection were being discovered, especially in places and events involving graduation parties, weddings, and other entertainment events.
Additional measures starting on Friday and later this month, which were decided last week, include summer vacation government subsidies for citizens and permanent residents who are vaccinated.
Covid-free zones had been the main theme after a number of incentives and counterincentives were deemed necessary by the Cabinet in an effrot to boost vaccination rates on the island.
ELAM cries foul over measures
Opposition party ELAM has registered the issue with the House of Representatives, while calling on the government to withdraw the latest measures.
“The health measures announced by the government are totally unacceptable, as it is inconceivable in a democracy to racially segregate people based on whether they are vaccinated or not,” an ELAM statement said.
The nationalist party also joined other critics who rejected the idea that business owners would have to carry out police work to check people’s documents at the door.
“The new measures are a blow to human dignity while at the same time breaching data privacy,” ELAM said.
Government officials and health experts have repeatedly argued that the majority of recent infections on the island were detected among populations that were unvaccinated.
But vaccination status of people identified as close contacts for testing purposes is not officially known, after a recent health ministry decree has been urging - but not requiring – contacts of infected people to be tested if they were vaccinated.