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18 June, 2024
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Lockdown begins amid legal challenges

Government says public health is top priority but critics say rules trample constitution


The Republic of Cyprus entered a two-week lockdown on Monday, the start of the Holy Week for the Greek Orthodox community, with critics crying foul over some measures including proof of vaccination.

Cyprus has began its third lockdown since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with the government announcing on Friday strict measures through an executive order including business closures, movement restrictions, night curfews, and vaccination proof for churchgoers during Holy Week.

The health ministry had quickly revised a church rule in order to allow up to 50 people to attend Holy Week services inside churches provided they have been vaccinated with a shot against COVID-19 at least three weeks prior.

The revision came after Archbishop Chrysostomos on Friday afternoon said he would call on believers to disobey a rule that banned churchgoers from attending services indoors, criticizing an earlier version of the decree and maintaining that face masks and social distancing were adequate measures.

CBA president Christos Clerides accused the government of trampling the Constitution, citing examples abroad where higher courts struck down executive decisions that interfered with rights

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou also alluded to measures expected to go into effect on May 10, a day after the end of the lockdown, including a requirement where people going to gathering places will be required to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Sunday, the eve of the lockdown, demonstrators gathered outside police headquarters in Nicosia, protesting the new measures and called on law enforcement to choose whether sides, esseentialyl the people or the government.

The crowd also walked over to state broadcaster RIK nearby, with reports saying demonstrators were against restrictions on the freedom of movement but also against vaccinations.

But there is also a legal aspect to the criticism, with the Cyprus Bar Association also weighing in on the discussion.

CBA president Christos Clerides, who spoke on state radio on Monday morning, says he has legal concerns over the vaccination proof requirement, accusing the government of trampling the Constitution and also citing examples abroad where higher courts struck down executive decisions that interfered with freedoms, such as movement and religion.

Clerides also accused the Cabinet of overstepping its authorities, saying a number of health laws could not be based on emergency orders but had to obtain parliament approval.

Last week, a Nicosia district court began hearings on a case against the police regarding complaints from citizens who say they were fined or health violations.

The attorney for the plaintiffs has raised a constitutional issue in the case, with Nicosia District Judge Michalis Loizou hearing arguments from both sides on the legality of measure.

But Clerides also told state radio that the Cypriot justice system lacked a fast track option for cases where serious legal questions or constitutional matters are invoked, saying appeals could take up to a year instead of a couple of months.

A justice reform bill sponsored by the government was pulled at the last moment before the dissolution parliament last week ahead of May elections, something Clerides described as “unfortunate.”

The government has declined to respond to specific questions but officials cited the latest developments in the pandemic, saying the administration’s top priority was public health.

Cyprus  |  pandemic  |  lockdown  |  legal  |  Christos Clerides  |  Cyprus Bar Association  |  vaccination  |  Cabinet  |  executive order  |  decree  |  parliament  |  protest  |  police

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