People no longer eligible for free rapid tests in government-run facilities were literally squeezed into a corner under the hot sun in Paphos on Sunday, while it was a walk in the park for vaccinated individuals and others in that town who were still eligible for state-funded testing based on the latest decree.
Local media in Paphos said no problems were reported Sunday in any of the three government-run locations in the western town, where state-funded rapid tests were conducted at a local stadium, an elementary school, and a shopping mall.
But additional reports said there was frustration outside a local drug store, which was the only one listed as open on Sunday according to an official document listing after-hours and weekend pharmacies.
Local media said staff at the pharmacy in question worked non-stop to serve customers who had formed a long line around the block, with dozens of people expressing their frustration over having to wait for a long time outdoors in very hot weather.
But representatives of private pharmacies said no time had been given to prepare for crowds on the weekend, when typically only a number of drug stores remain open.
Cyprus Pharmaceutical Association president Piera Eleni Isseyiek told state radio on Monday morning that they “were never called to take part in that discussion.”
There was frustration outside a local drug store, which was the only one listed as open on Sunday
“We learned from the media on Friday and there was no time to adapt to the new rules,” Isseyiek said.
The representative, who owns a pharmacy in Nicosia, also pointed out it was a difficult time in the summer, as many colleagues were on summer vacation.
There have also been suggestions that pharmacies might hire emergency staff including from a pool of candidates who previously worked at government-run rapid test locations.
The pharmacy incident took place after a health ministry decree went into effect on Sunday, toughening Safe Pass rules and canceling state-funded and state-administered rapid tests for people who chose to remain unvaccinated. The decree also reduces the number of shops accessible to people who choose to remain unvaccinated.
A Safe Pass 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. EUDCC and Cyprus Flight Pass documents are also accepted in lieu of a Safe Pass.
Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela reiterated on Saturday the government’s position that cancelation of free rapid tests for the unvaccinated was necessary because the state offered citizens the choice to get vaccinated, adding that money could be better spent to support state hospitals.
Vaccinated still eligible at government-run test centers
Decree exceptions still allow for a free rapid test for any person who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, while vaccinated persons and minors still remained eligible for free rapid tests in government-run facilities.
Additional reports said the price of vaccines was going up, with Reuters reporting on Sunday that the new price for the Pfizer shot was €19.50, a €4 increase, while contracts showed the Moderna vaccine at €21.50 a dose.
Both vaccines are the only jabs currently available and recommended by Cypriot authorities for children aged 12-15, provided there is parental or guardian consent. The vaccination program began Monday on a voluntary basis in accordance with the latest decree.
According to Isseyiek’s interview on state radio Monday morning, it could be several days before the situation could be organized with local pharmacies, while it might take a week to set up software that would instantly provide updated information to the system.