All UK arrivals will be taken to state allocated and sponsored quarantine hotels for seven days, the health ministry announced on Monday morning as experts warn the mutated strain may already be in Cyprus.
The measure is in effect from 6pm Monday to 11.59pm until January 5.
Persons arriving from the UK must show documentation proving they carried out a PCR test (with a negative result) at the most 72 hours prior to departure, otherwise they will be tested at the airport (Larnaca or Paphos).
The ministry had originally issued an advisory late Sunday saying anyone arriving from the UK would need to self-isolate following a ban on air traffic between several European countries and the UK after the government there said a mutation of Covid-19 was spreading fast.
The new health ministry revised its Sunday decree on Monday saying that hotel quarantine was required instead. The government will foot the cost.
Those under the age of 18 may self-isolate at home instead but hotels will be available to them if required – i.e., if they travelled with their parents, for example.
After seven days, those in the hotels will be required to take another PCR test and if the result is negative then they can self-isolate at home for another three days, raising the total period of isolation to ten days.
The health ministry confirmed that if the test taken on the seventh day is positive, the person will be treated as any other positive case and as such will be required to self-isolate at home for two weeks.
On the tenth day, as long as they have no symptoms, people can exit self-isolation. If people are symptomatic, they must contact their personal doctor for further guidance.
It was also stated that persons who arrived in Cyprus from the UK in the last week and tested positive will have their samples passed onto the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics for further analysis. This will be done to assess whether the samples contain the mutated strain of the virus.
A 24-year-old who lives and works in London but grew up in Cyprus where his family still resides, told the Cyprus Mail of the tough decisions which he now faces. He planned to travel to Cyprus on December 28 to spend New Year with his family.
“It’s massively impacted my plans… Because it was so sudden, I basically have to choose between changing my flight to tomorrow (Tuesday) and spend Christmas alone… then continue with my plans for New Year’s Eve or just stay in London which seems the easier thing to do,” he told the Cyprus Mail on Monday.
“But I also have to consider my work and whether they’ll let me take tomorrow off for a 10am flight,” he said.
A 26-year-old man told the Cyprus Mail that his sister was due to come home for Christmas on Wednesday, but has cancelled her plans.
Almost by the hour countries are announcing UK flight bans, both within the European Union and further afield.
Cyprus’ measures have been viewed as still allowing those who are determined enough to reach Cyprus from the UK to do so, but also being enough of an obstacle to perhaps dissuade others from flying to the island.
EU member states are due to meet in Brussels later Monday to discuss a co-ordinated response on travel bans for Britain. A source close to the government told the Cyprus Mail that they do not expect an EU decision to impact Cyprus’ approach.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency prior to the announcement, Petros Karayiannis, Professor of Microbiology/Molecular Virology at the University of Nicosia Medical School said that the mutated strain of the virus may already be present in Cyprus.
He also warned that the measures that have and are being taken should have been put into effect earlier.
“These changes do not appear from one day to the next. The mutated virus has probably been circulating in the UK for a few weeks now,” he said.
“It has already been detected in Italy, the Netherlands and even Australia… we have frequent air links and it may have arrived here as well… so all these precautionary measures which European countries are taking are a bit late,” Karayiannis said.
But Leontios Kostrikis, Professor of Virology at the Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Cyprus, appeared less concerned about the mutated strain of the virus – saying such mutations are natural and are to be expected.
Speaking to Phileleftheros on Monday, he appeared to disagree with the decision by many nations to ban UK flights and said that as of yet there is no scientific evidence to warrant such reactions and said they are excessive.
Asked as to whether the restrictive measures may be relaxed during the holidays, Karayiannis said: “it is not easy to do so under the current conditions we are facing with about 400 cases daily”.
If there are some relaxations of the measures, he said, they will be mild and for a limited period – perhaps on the major holidays and not for the days in between.
Kostrikis was in agreement with Karayiannis, saying the situation is quite serious and as such relaxations are not justified.