The requirement of a special pass to enter malls, churches and restaurants is a temporary one to ensure a smooth transition into the next phase of less restrictive measures, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Thursday.

The minister said that the return “to more normal conditions” must be done safely and carefully. For this reason, he said, not all restrictions can be completely removed at this stage, but they are adapting to the data of the current period.

“The de-escalation of measures will be gradual and depending on the epidemiological picture as it evolves,” he added.

Ioannou also said that in order to achieve the best possible harmonisation with the relaxation of measures, it was decided to lift the obligation for people to send a text message in order to leave the house.

He added that to ensure more safety during people’s presence in specific areas where crowds gather such as shopping malls, restaurants, churches, along with the use of a mask and the observance of other personal protection measures, it was decided that people need to:

To have been vaccinated with at least the first dose at least three weeks earlier or

To have been infected by Covid-19 in the past six months

If one of the two above measures does not apply, and as a temporary solution and until vaccination coverage progresses further people aged over 12 should present a negative PCR or rapid test, with a validity of 72 hours, he said.

“This measure is temporary and will be applied for a transitional period in order to ensure that our travels and social contacts are made as safe as possible for our health and for public health,” Ioannou said. The goal, he said, is to achieve the desired immunity through vaccinations.

More specific information will be provided later in the day, he said.

He also clarified that the responsibility for the control of possession of proof is not the responsibility of the businesses but of police and officials of competent ministries and departments depending on their areas of responsibility.

The cabinet on Wednesday night decided, from Monday, to lift the obligation of sending an SMS before going out, to reopen most closed businesses and to introduce a so-called Covid pass for people to be allowed into hospitality venues, churches, gyms, shops and other places.

The overnight curfew, between 11pm and 5am will remain in place.

Ioannou said that an application will be introduced for obtaining a digital Covid pass but more information would be given by the deputy ministry for innovation. The pass was originally being referred to in ministry announcements as a ‘coronapass’. However, CoronaPass is a trademarked app developed by Microsoft and specifically refers to a digital-only system.

A digital pass is not expected to be implemented right away in Cyprus and people will likely have to present paper evidence of test, vaccine or proof of past illness when the measure starts from Monday, and until a digital version is available.

Clarifications on the measures such as for which shops a pass will be required, will be announced very soon, he said.

The easing of restrictions was also aimed at lifting people’s spirits, the minister said. He added that lockdowns are not the only solution. “We cannot keep society and the economy closed for ever,” he added, arguing that the solution of the problem lies with each individual and cooperation by everyone.

As regards the glitch that rendered the vaccination portal out of service on Thursday, Ioannou expressed hope that would be resolved and the portal would be up and running soon. He added that the vaccination programme continues. “We hope that within the next two weeks we will reach the 45 per cent (of the population).”

Head of the advisory committee on coronavirus Constantinos Tsioutis, said, this was a crucial period and called for cooperation by everyone. He said it was not easy to foretell when the pandemic would be over and called on people to keep in mind that to observe all measures.

“Only collectively as a community we can get out of this situation,” Dr Constantinos Phellas, advisor of the health ministry on psychology and sociology, said.