As of Saturday for two weeks, flights to the Larnaca and Paphos airports from 28 countries will be banned, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou announced on Tuesday night, noting that this stricter measure does not affect cargo.
Additionally, after tension arose in reaction to the government’s previous measure announced on March 15, which required all arrivals to Cyprus airports to present a valid health certificate showing they are clear of coronavirus, with those not holding a certificate in danger of being sent back, Ioannou said that exceptions to this obligation will be made until March 21, when the new measure is set to be implemented.
Speaking after an inter-ministerial meeting held the Presidential Palace on Tuesday, chaired by President Nicos Anastasiades, the Minister of Health said that starting from 3am (local time) on March 2, all flights to Larnaca and Paphos airports, excluding cargo-carrying flights, will be banned from the following countries:
Bahrein, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Egypt, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Jordan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Greece.
Cyprus falls in line with EU-wide move
European Union leaders agreed on Tuesday to close Europe's borders for 30 days to prevent the spread of coronavirus but establish fast-track lanes at their countries' frontiers to keep goods moving, bloc leaders said after a video-conference summit.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference that it would be up to European countries to implement the closure of their borders to citizens from third countries.
Cyprus will charter flights from Athens and London if necessary to transport passengers back to Cyprus
"The enemy is the virus and now we have to do our utmost to protect our people and to protect our economies," she said. "We are ready to do everything that is required. We will not hesitate to take additional measures as the situation evolves."
Exceptions to the March 15 decree
Ioannou said that his previous decree requiring arrivals to present a health certificate will remain in force until 3am on Saturday. Exceptions will apply to those who traveled abroad for medical reasons or for a short stay, for business or professional purposes, and for those who are entitled to enter on the basis of the Vienna Convention.
People who traveled abroad for medical reasons may be accompanied by those who went with them abroad and stayed with them during treatment, the Minister clarified.
Ioannou added that instead of presenting a medical certificate, those who fall within the exception categories will have to provide a certificate from one of the diplomatic missions of the Republic of Cyprus abroad. To get the certificate, they will have to present relevant evidence, such as outbound tickets or certificates from the medical treatment center.
Tension had mounted in recent days in reaction to the March 15 decree, as many had been stranded abroad due to protocols whereby countries abroad would only perform coronavirus checks on those presenting symptoms, leaving those wishing to return to Cyprus unable to get hold of a certificate proving they did not carry the virus.
Ioannou also said that flights without passengers to the Republic of Cyprus will be allowed to land in order to transport people who wish to depart from the island.
Moreover, the Health Minister said that the Republic of Cyprus will charter flights from Athens and London if necessary, in order to transport passengers falling within the exception categories back to Cyprus.
All passengers entering the Republic of Cyprus will be placed in quarantine for 14 days from the day of their arrival, in areas designated by the state. This does not apply for persons who went abroad for medical reasons, who will instead confine themselves at home to continue their treatment.