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Coronavirus: Outrage as flight from Turkey allowed into the north (Updated)

Lapithos

The arrival of a small group of people in the north from Turkey last Friday after they were given special permission and did not quarantine provoked strong reactions in the north, with many talking about a scandal.

Opposition parties on Monday called on the ‘government’ to resign while ‘prime minister’ Ersin Tatar said he ordered a police probe into the matter saying the green light was given for the group’s arrival on the condition they would be quarantined.

The ‘health minister’ said on Monday that the group was not tested for coronavirus because they were placed in a quarantine hotel and did not go out.

He said that those in quarantine do not get tested unless they have symptoms.

Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Duzen reported on Sunday that nine individuals had arrived from Antalya last Friday and left on Sunday, reportedly a day earlier than scheduled due to the uproar over their special treatment. An official later said that it was in fact 13 people who arrived and not nine.

After it was revealed the group had not been placed in quarantine, the ‘tourism ministry’ said they were a team of experts working on a marina project in Lapithos who were granted special permission by the ‘cabinet’.

An official of the ‘health ministry’ reportedly said that the group would not come into contact with the local population and would be accommodated at a quarantine facility.

Some authorities however claim they had been misinformed.

‘Public works minister’ Tolga Atakan said the flight permit had been given by the ‘cabinet’ but based on the details that later emerged it had been misinformed.

“It emerged that none of the details concerning the group, who the people were and for what reason they arrived was as provided to the cabinet,” Atakan reportedly said.

Yeni Duzen reported that seven of them departed for Antalya on a private jet, a day earlier than planned.

The issue was discussed in ‘parliament’ on Monday with ‘tourism minister’ Unal Ustel finding himself under fire for not providing all the necessary information on the group’s arrival.

‘Deputy prime minister’ Kudret Ozersay reportedly said ‘cabinet’ was told that the Lapithos municipality had asked the ‘tourism ministry’ to grant a special permit. He added that ‘cabinet’ had not taken a written decision on the matter and were not told that those arriving would not be quarantined.

Ozersay said, according to media reports, he was not aware the Turkish Cypriot contractors’ association was involved and that the matter was arranged between the ‘tourism and health ministries’. Both are under the National Unity Party (UBP) with which Ozersay’s People’s Party (HP) formed a coalition ‘government’ last year.

Opposition parties in the meantime said that the Lapithos mayor was not aware that a team would be arriving for the construction of the marina in that area.

The revelation follows a call by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on Saturday for scientists in the north to speak up about the coronavirus situation in Turkey, which he said was even worrying health experts there.

“Are our scientists not worried about July 1?” Akinci said in a written statement.

Turkey has been included in the list of countries from which the north announced it would start receiving passengers on July 1. On the same date, people from the government-controlled areas will also be able to cross to the north.

“We are going through a period in which it is important and mandatory for health professionals to express their views publicly and strongly as we expect them to guide the politics [of the situation],” Akinci said.

While arguing that transport and communication with Turkey is crucial, he said that, above all, it was important to protect public health.

 

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