By George Psyllides and Gina Agapiou
The island’s divided communities are taking all necessary measures against the spread of the coronavirus in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, it was announced on Monday, as the two leaders agreed to step up cooperation.
Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci were briefed by the bicommunal technical committee on health amid growing concerns worldwide over the virus that originated in China.
“The moral lesson from this is that despite the differences we may have, or the different views on a number of issues, we cannot ignore the dangers or the events, over which who is strong or weak does not count, and they push us to unite forces and act together,” Anastasiades said afterwards.
A UN statement following the meeting said, “The committee took note that all necessary precautions have been taken by both sides in accordance with the guidelines of the World Health Organisation, including screening.”
Greek and Turkish Cypriots agreed to remain in close contact and to exchange information and provide assistance where necessary.
“The technical committee on health has successfully collaborated on similar health emergencies in the past.”
The two leaders expressed satisfaction after their briefing by the committee.
Earlier Monday, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said authorities will start performing the coronavirus tests on the island after receiving the necessary reagents.
The minister said tests will be performed at the institute of neurology and genetics.
“We are in regular contact with the World Health Organisation and the European authorities and we are ready to implement any directions,” Ioannou said.
“We must not frighten people for no reason,” he said, adding that according to WHO, a lockdown was not required.
Ioannou said it was the airline’s obligation to check passengers who have recently been to China, after a Greek Cypriot complained of the lack of measures against the coronavirus when he arrived on the island.
A list of all the people coming from China is given to the airlines and all those passengers must be scanned said Ioannou, however, mistakes might occur with transit flights.
In that case the passenger must inform the airline if they were recently in China.
The minister was referring to the case of Giorgos Ioannides who arrived on the island on Sunday from China via Hong Kong and Moscow.
Ioannides told state radio he had been scanned at both international airports and was obliged to reply to a questionnaire about his travel details of the last 30 days.
But when he arrived in Cyprus, he was shocked that nobody stopped him to check his temperature or ask any questions, so he reported the issue to the media.
The health minister said the state was not in a position to know what happened with the passenger in question, but it is the passengers’ obligation to inform the airlines if they have been to China the last month.
Authorities at the Republic’s two airports are supposed to scan passengers who started their trips in China. In the north, Turkish Cypriots said they would install thermal cameras at Tymbou (Ercan) airport to detect passengers running a fever.