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Cyprus

Hold off on any plans for September mass gatherings, very large weddings, health ministry warns (Updated)

The health ministry on Wednesday urged organisers planning unrestricted mass social gatherings, including concerts, festivals and very large weddings from September 1, to hold off for now as a decision on the full lifting of restrictions on such events will not be made until after that.

The announcement was made as events management groups which organise events such as large weddings and concerts staged a protest outside the Presidential Palace calling on the government to lift the restrictions on the maximum number of people allowed at an event.

Holding placards that read “what about weddings? The government haven’t RSVP’d” they also made a point of saying that “airports are open so why don’t we?”

According to a statement from the ministry of health, citing estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the organisation of mass social events without restrictions, at this stage, holds an extremely high risk of Covid transmission.

“Therefore, the holding of such events where many people gather and the observance of hygiene and social distancing is impossible, are prohibited,” a statement said.

At present, the maximum number of people who can currently gather in public and private such as in homes, is 250 for outside areas 100 indoors. Indoor and outdoor simultaneous gatherings are still not allowed, namely 250 outside and 100 inside.

As regards weddings and christenings, between August 22 and September 15, the maximum number of people allowed to attend dinner receptions must not exceed 350.

Cocktail receptions at weddings up to 1,000 people are allowed after August but not all at the same time.

According to the protocol prepared by the events organisers’ association and the health ministry, up to 250 people can enter the reception area per hour. For example, if 1,000 people are expected at the reception, the minimum duration of the event must be four hours, which is 250 people per hour. Guests must congratulate the couple without hugs and kisses and leave the reception area.

Couples or organisers of other events will have to provide their guest lists for the cocktail or dinner reception which will be kept by the businesses for at least three months in order for authorities to be able to trace people if coronavirus cases are detected among staff or guests.

The ministry said that based on the recommendations of the ECDC and the WHO, the possible occurrence of cases at large open events makes contact tracing particularly difficult and also makes it harder to control the spread of the virus.

Both agencies, it added,  also speak of a high risk of derailment of the situation in countries with a fairly good epidemiological picture, such as Cyprus, given that there is currently no vaccine against Covid-19, nor any drug treatment for its prevention.

“As recommended by the relevant international and European bodies, the possibility of lifting restrictions on mass and social events should be considered after September,” the ministry added.

“Therefore, people are advised not to plan to conduct such events from September 1 as a final decision has not been taken and not heeding decrees on this is a violation,” it warned.

The fact that Cyprus maintains positive epidemiological indicators and the situation in the country is controlled and that so far there have not been any setbacks such as other countries have seen, is due to the fact that Cyprus has followed from the beginning the recommendations of the competent organisations and moved ahead with a targeted and slow lifting of the restrictive measures, the ministry said.

“In order for the good epidemiological picture to be maintained, we all have individual and collective responsibility and we must behave seriously, respecting the rules,” it concluded.

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