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21 May, 2024
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Cyprus scrambles as WHO declares pandemic

Health minister perturbed over ‘sick flight’ in the south, Ercan turns away inbound flight in the north


The World Health Organization has classified the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic, calling for “urgent and aggressive action” after the coronavirus spread in 114 including Cyprus and Turkey while Greece reported its first fatality.

Officials in the Republic of Cyprus called on members of the public to remain calm on Thursday, after four confirmed cases were added to the list of infections, bringing the total number of known cases to seven, six in the south and one in the north.

During a radio show on Thursday morning, health officials from the 1420 Hotline, which has been flooded with phone calls, scorned private citizens for calling to ask “ridiculous” questions, such as “how do I know if the person next to me at the supermarket doesn’t have” the virus?

Medical experts said people should not panic but instead take personal hygiene seriously, including washing hands regularly, guarding their personal space in public, and remaining isolated if they have symptoms.

Government officials in the Republic of Cyprus said the state was pacing itself in taking actions to avoid excessive measures that could harm the economy

A 28-year-old Greek Cypriot passenger on a flight from Gatwick, who arrived at Larnaca International Airport on Wednesday evening, was showing symptoms of high fever and was taken to Nicosia General Hospital for tests.

All passengers were isolated and taken to the old Larnaca airport nearby for testing while the plane was disinfected by maintenance crew.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said he was perturbed over the incident, with reports saying he could not understand the decision of a person to travel while being ill.

In the north, a flight also originating from the United Kingdom was turned back after Ercan airport officials denied permission to land. Reports said Turkish Cypriots issued orders to ban chartered flights to Cyprus until April 1.

WHO officials, who declared coronavirus COVID-19 a pandemic on Wednesday, warned that situations in Iran and Italy could be replicated in other countries if states fail to take “urgent and aggressive action.” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the use of the word “pandemic” to describe the outbreak would not change the organisation's response.

"We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction," he said.

Social distancing measures, including a ban on gatherings of over 75 people in closed spaces, also became the topic of conversation in local media, with critics accusing the government of using arbitrary numbers.

But government officials said the state was pacing itself in taking actions while at avoiding excessive measures that could harm the economy.

Cyprus  |  coronavirus  |  pandemic  |  travel  |  Larnaca  |  Ercan  |  plane  |  WHO  |  UK  |  Gatwick  |  Nicosia

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