Cypriot Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela suggests vaccinated persons do not need to take rapid tests for Covid, adding those who choose to remain unvaccinated should now have to pay out of their own pocket to keep getting tested if they want to use Safe Pass.
Following Saturday’s official visit to the Emergency Room at Nicosia General Hospital, Hadjipantela reiterated the government’s position that cancelation of free rapid tests was necessary because the state offered citizens the choice to get vaccinated.
The minister went on to explain that hospitals were in need of financial support, suggesting some of the money saved from rapid tests would be redirected to state hospitals.
"We respect the views of our fellow citizens"
"We respect the views of our fellow citizens. At the same time, since the state offers all of our fellow citizens the choice to get vaccinated, it is our position that they won’t need rapid tests when they make that choice [to get vaccinated]” Hadjipantela said.
Rapid tests are one of the last options available for a Safe Pass, which requires people over the age of 12 to have in possession physical proof they have been vaccinated with at least one dose three weeks prior, tested negative for the coronavirus during a rapid or PCR test conducted in the last 72 hours, or officially cleared by state authorities no more than six months since the last time they tested positive for coronavirus.
A European Union Digital Covid Certificate and a Cyprus Flight Pass document can also be accepted in lieu of a Safe Pass.
According to the latest decree that went into effect on Sunday, a Safe Pass rule that regulates access to areas was amended to include more places out of reach for persons without a Safe Pass.
Knews has learned that the corporate headquarters of a popular bakery chain on the island already issued relevant guidance, meaning many customers will be unable to shop there without a negative rapid test.
'Since the state offers all of our fellow citizens the choice to get vaccinated, it is our position they won’t need rapid tests when they make that choice'
The Republic of Cyprus has spent €26 million on rapid tests alone, plus other related expenses according to the minister, in an effort to identify infected persons and trace their close contacts to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
But critics have cried foul over rapid tests after numerous reports suggested health ministry administrators and staff kept having difficulty using the information obtained from the results to locate individuals and isolate them in time.
Earlier this week, health expert Zoi Dorothea Pana, who sits on the government’s pandemic advisory committee, called for rapid tests to be conducted in a more targeted approach, while other officials including health network administrators called on the state to provide for more data for better planning.
Vaccinated persons still eligible for free rapid tests
But Hadjipantela says the decision now rests with the rapid test taker.
“And from the moment they decided not to have the vaccine, we believe it is their obligation to pay for rapid tests,” the minister said.
An exception allows for a free rapid test for any person who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, the ministry said, while vaccinated persons and minors will remain eligible for free rapid tests.
The latest decree came as the government said it was pushing for more vaccinations and simplifying its procedures to vaccinate people, including walk-in centers and lowering the age threshold to include children over 12.
Last month a number of incentives and counterincentives were also introduced, including hotel jab discounts, shopping coupons for those getting a Covid shot, and leaves of absence related to getting vaccinated.
But more steps were being taken with health ministry’s permanent secretary Christina Yiannaki, who accompanied Hadjipantela on his hospital visit, saying “walk-ins are going up and we are providing support,” adding that this week’s no-appointment vaccinations had reached 10,600 by Friday.
“Starting August 5, anyone can go even if they are not registered with GESY,” she said.
The health ministry official also said the vaccination website had been revamped “to benefit public health as well as ourselves and those around us, so that we can get out of the pandemic and especially for the children who will be going back to school.”
“All these changes will take us where we need to be, our goal which has been set for end of August,” Yiannaki said.