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30 March, 2020
 
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SMS service 8998 gets the axe

Day 2 of movement restrictions with officials having second thoughts on SMS service 8998

Newsroom

The SMS service, operated by the government to enforce movement restrictions amid the coronavirus crisis, was back up and running smoothly on Wednesday morning, while the President of the Republic has warned that a total curfew would be in place if people abuse the service.

(Click here for an update to the story)

Knews understands that the text message service 8998 was working properly on Wednesday morning, as citizens are required to send a text in advance before going out for legitimate reasons.

After Kokkinos said the service was offline, listeners called in to report that the service was running smoothly and they had been granted permissions to their requests

But officials went on state radio to say the system was still being tested and asked people not to use it until limitations were added to the service. Kyriacos Kokkinos, deputy minister for Research, Innovation & Digital Policy, said there were discussions about placing limits on the use of the service, per day, per user.

After Kokkinos said the service was offline, listeners called in to report that the service was running smoothly and they had been granted permissions to their requests. The service was later canceled.

On Tuesday evening, just minutes after a decree for partial curfew went into effect at 6pm, the entire service was blocked after some 30,000 “message requests” flooded the system.

People wishing to leave their home or shelter for any of the reasons falling under exceptions to the travel restriction, such as going to buy essential supplies or walking their dog, must either fill in a special form or send a text message to 8998 and wait for text response. 

But officials said the service had a technical glitch after it was flooded with messages and could not respond with “permission replies” in a timely manner.

On Wednesday morning, the service was said to be operating properly, while President Nicos Anastasiades wrote on Twitter that a full curfew would be the next step if the current system of restrictions was abused.

Police officers on Tuesday evening found dozens of citizens without permission, including youths, who could not show proof that their outings were essential or in accordance with the rules.

According to state radio, law enforcement officers have not been issuing on-the-spot fines as the system did not allow it. Anastasiades said the fine would be €150 while police officers currently could only press charges which include higher fines imposed by a court as well as up to six months imprisonment.

Justice Minsiter George Savvides said cases would move swiftly through the courts regardless of any delays or measures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Anyone going out in public for legitimate reasons must carry identification documents, such as passport or ID card, in case police ask to inspect them. Officials said officers have been told to check documents whenever they see people out in public, including outside supermarkets.

TAGS
Cyprus  |  coronavirus  |  movement restriction  |  curfew  |  police  |  SMS  |  8998  |  public health

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