Dozens of travelers who arrived in Cyprus without a required health certificate for the coronavirus say they were hurried to the mountains in the dead of night and treated like “criminals” and “lepers.”
On Monday, following tense moments at Larnaca and Paphos airports as well as on board sanctioned flights, dozens of Cypriots were granted an exception by the government to disembark their planes and get into disinfected buses en route to quarantine facilities in Platres.
One quarantined traveler on a flight from Gatwick to Larnaca said the captain came on over the loudspeaker while the plane was on the tarmac, saying he was ordered by airport officials to refuel and take off, transporting the passengers back to their origin of departure.
“We immediately stood up without causing a commotion and told the pilot he was free to go, but we won’t sit down” the passenger said.
'We have no objection to quarantines as long as the place is properly ventilated… there are even no soaps or hand sanitizers'
The male passenger, an elderly Greek Cypriot man, said they were then hurried into a shuttle and driven to an unknown location in the dead of night.
Knews was also told most passengers were over 60 years of age including four passengers who had diabetes, while officials reportedly did not offer food or essential travel toiletries.
No information was provided by officials over the incident with reports saying 41 passengers from Larnaca made their way to one facility after midnight, with four people assigned to 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,” the elderly man said live on RIK News.
Reports said a campground official went and got food with his own money for the quarantined travelers and provided them with blankets, while two health officials were present at the time the passengers arrived at the facility.
“I feel the state has let us down,” said a young student.
The female passenger complained that the country had abandoned its own citizens abroad, saying the government should have arranged to send a doctor for them and make proper quarantine arrangements.
“I asked the official here about washing our clothes and he told me he didn’t know,” she said, adding that the laundry facilities were to be out of reach for the group.
“I feel like we are lepers or something,” she told RIK News, adding that a doctor should come and examine them because they are Cypriot citizens and have equal rights with everyone else.
Another male passenger, who was on a business trip to Jamaica, said his trip was canceled in the UK and so he hopped the first plane back to Cyprus.
“There must have been over 40 police officers as soon as we came out of the aircraft, threatening us and telling us we were lucky to be allowed to disembark the plane,” the businessman said.
Earlier videos showing moments of tension on board a flight after landing had also gone viral.
“Me and some other young folks, we can take it, but there are elderly people and some diabetics here too,” he said, pointing out dietary and other health concerns.
Another traveler criticized the government’s decision over the health certificate rule, saying nobody was issuing such documents abroad and nobody had asked them to show proof of health when they boarded their flights.
But reports said at least six passengers from Amsterdam had managed to obtain the certificates, causing friction with fellow passengers who did not have the documents while flight crew was attempting to handle the tension.
Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, a Greek-Cypriot entrepreneur and owner of EasyJet, said travel destinations was a complicated and fast-changing situation, according to daily Reporter. At least one of the flights in question was operated by the company and landed at Paphos International Airport after the deadline on Monday evening.
The government called on Cypriots to remain calm over the situation. The President’s Cabinet was holding another emergency meeting on Tuesday while reports said the administration might make modifications to the travel restrictions.
Public opinion over the specific health certificate rule was divided in Cyprus, while social media campaigns urging people to stay put were gaining popularity.