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Our View: Government has failed to offer crystal clear guidelines to category B travellers

In the last few days our offices have been inundated with calls and emails from confused Britons planning on flying to Cyprus this weekend asking about whether the NHS coronavirus-test result met the government’s requirements, whether it could be presented as an SMS message, whether visitors can have the test at the airport and whether children under 12 did not have to be tested.

The comments section, under a report about the issue on the Cyprus Mail website featured close to 200 posts, illustrating the confusion people feel about what is expected of them on arrival. Although some of the information has been made clear, not all of it has. There are several genuine areas of confusion that the ministries have failed to clarify for visitors from Category B countries. The result has been people seeking clarifications from sources that are not necessarily in a position to offer accurate information. One caller informed us he was told by an airport official in Cyprus that visitors could have a covid test on arrival to Cyprus which was completely wrong.

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Most uncertainty surrounds the negative coronavirus test, less than 72 hours old, that every visitor from a category B country must have in order to enter the country. The government has stated what information the test result must include (name, date sample was taken, type of test), which reportedly is not provided by the NHS test available for free in the UK. It has also been said that the routine NHS test is not the type required by Cyprus – RT-PCR Covid-19. Is it so difficult for the government to make this clear, if this is the case, on the Press and Information Office website that provides “Information for all Stakeholders concerning flights from/to Republic of Cyprus,” instead of leaving people in the dark?

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To make matters worse, the help desk handling queries from visitors – a very good idea – will only start operating on Saturday, August 1, when people will already be on a plane heading to Cyprus. Surely, this help desk should have been operational days, if not weeks ago, explaining and clarifying the government’s requirements to visitors. Once it is, belatedly, up and running, there must be an adequate number of personnel answering calls, because visitors cannot be made to wait a long time to get through.

What Cyprus’ officials have completely failed to grasp, is that they should go out of their way to provide a good and prompt service to potential visitors to the island. We are desperate for tourists and the Britons seeking information about travelling to Cyprus are loyal customers that are prepared to pay premium prices to visit – including getting a covid test privately – the island. We should not just be treating them with respect but also trying to make their visit as easy and stress free as possible by providing them with all the information they need.

It is called good customer relations and the Cyprus authorities need to treat foreigners wanting to visit the island as valued customers of the tourist industry.

As if we needed any further confirmation of this need, Jet2 airlines announced last night it had cancelled all flights to Cyprus until at least August 16.

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