A new presidential address to the nation on Wednesday is expected to set the tone as the Republic of Cyprus is gearing up for the summer season but debate over health concerns and social distancing still rages on.
The government is expected to announce on Wednesday evening a second package of measures for workers and the economy ahead of phase two, which signals the start of a main focus on the tourism industry after easing restrictions earlier this month.
But critics in the north, according to Turkish Cypriot media, have expressed concern over the south reopening “too soon” while many unknowns still exist about the pandemic.
Ministers mail out "we made it" letter
The criticism came as media reported on an open invitation letter signed by three of the Republic’s ministers, telling prospective tourists that “Cyprus made it” and listing positive epidemiological data for the island.
The letter signed by the ministers of foreign affairs, transport, and tourism, was addressed to foreign travel agents, tour operators, and airlines informing them of specific guidelines and strict inspections in place in order to “welcome foreign visitors as best as possible” in a way to avoid quarantine conditions.
“We have adopted new protocols to make sure health and safety guidelines can help avoid the use of quarantine measures,” the letter said.
400,000 arrivals expected this summer
According to local media, Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said government agencies estimated that 400,000 passengers were still expected to arrive at Larnaca and Paphos airports during the summer months.
“We expect to reach that number based on data that we have now,” Karousos said.
Hotels will open on June 1 while airports are expected to open in two weeks, with the first phase starting on June 9 and the second on June 20.
Specific criteria for travelers from specific countries will determine eligibility for travel to Cyprus, with questionnaires and coronavirus health certificates included in the prerequisites.
Social distancing debate still rages on
But there was still a great deal of concern in the south as well, with the government remaining concerned over behavioural patterns among members of the public and Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou calling for more checks and inspections.
“Our goal is to maintain the good epidemiological image in Cyprus that we have achieved after so much effort and hard work,” Ioannou said.
A business owner complied with the number of people per square footage but had pushed tables closer together in order to make space for a dance floor
Health officials said they were concerned over the way protocols were being applied out in the real world, with restaurant owners saying rules were not clear and complaining about inspectors visiting establishments with a tape measure to make sure tables and chairs are spaced out correctly.
The rules allow up to ten diners sitting together at a table in an open space, but different parties must sit two metres away from each other.
But officials and business owners have debated the meaning of “two metres” with some arguing that the tables should be two metres apart but diners from different groups should have back to back distance between 70cm and 1.50cm depending on overall footage.
In one case, a business owner complied with the number of people per square footage but had pushed tables closer together in order to make space for a dance floor, with a live debate on whether this was allowed taking place among officials on state radio.
The rules require restaurant owners to inform customers of social distancing requirements but critics pointed out that policing work should be carried out by law enforcement.
It was not clear whether clarifications over current rules would be announced during President Nicos Anastasiades’ address to the nation on Wednesday evening.
Anastasiades will meet with his Cabinet at 7pm and is expected to address the public after the meeting to announce measures to support workers and the economy.