Hundreds of citizens have asked to be repatriated to the Republic of Cyprus, prompting the government to seek options to beat a universal ban on all flights that goes into effect on Saturday.
Government officials said Cypriot citizens and legal aliens could be allowed back to the country as long as they meet eligibility creiteria and placed under quarantine for 14 days expect those who were abroad for medical treatment.
But a looming universal ban of flights, ordered by the Cypriot government as a measure against the coronavirus pandemic, prompted officials to work around the clock in order to organize repatriation efforts before the deadline.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, some 300 Cypriot citizens in the United Kingdom and Greece have asked to be allowed to fly back to the island.
Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said he was anticipating an official decree being issued on Thursday banning all flights starting on Saturday morning at 3am.
The following day, government officials transported the quarantined travelers to hotels within the Republic of Cyprus, where individuals were assigned each to a private room
“There will be no country list in the executive order because the ban will affect all flights to Cypriot airports,” Karousos said, while reports clarified cargo and outbound flights were still allowed.
Karousos said they were in contact with several airliners to charter repatriation flights, if deemed necessary, clarifying that stranded passengers who went abroad for medical reasons, short holidays or on business trips, were a priority, according to CNA.
Travelers already under quarantine, including individuals who failed to comply with a health certificate rule imposed by the government, complained earlier this week regarding their accommodation.
Dozens of travelers who arrived in Cyprus on Monday after 6pm, when a required health certificate for the coronavirus went into effect, were finally allowed to disembark after hours of tension at airports and on board aircraft.
One of them said they hurried to the mountains in the dead of night and treated like “criminals” and “lepers” while they were assigned two to four individuals in each room.
“We have no objection to being placed under quarantine, as long as they are properly ventilated… but there were no soaps or hand sanitizers,” said another traveler.
The following day, government officials transported the quarantined travelers to hotels within the Republic of Cyprus, where individuals were assigned each to their own private room.
Tourism Deputy Minister Savvas Perdios on Wednesday urged hoteliers to pitch in, as the country was anticipating travelers would arrive this week and required to confine themselves for 14 days.
Previous efforts by the government in locating quarantine facilities in case of a pandemic had been met with resistance from local communities.
In the north, Turkish Cypriot authorities picked out a central quarantine location, where all travelers flying in would be required to stay for 14 days. Local media said the central location was a hotel facility.