The introduction of the ‘Covid pass’ in Cyprus starting Monday has sparked a mixed reaction among the public, lawyers and the hospitality sector with some welcoming the restart of the economy and others protesting that it violates human rights and personal freedoms.

With the lifting of the two-week lockdown on May 10, the state plans to introduce a Covid pass that will be required for people to visit cafes, restaurants, shopping malls, gyms, theatres and places of worship. Such a pass entails either having a negative Covid test carried out within the last 72 hours or having received at least one dose of the vaccine three weeks prior or having contracted the virus in the past six months.

But for many commentators on social media, the move smacks of government overreach and is totally unacceptable. Others see it as an unwelcome, but necessary step to allow the reopening of the economy.

While certain business owners and developers expressed their approval about the overall new measures announced late on Wednesday, Phanos Leventis, the head of association of owners of recreation centres (Pasika) threatened to sue the state over the unconstitutional measure as this restriction is expected to affect business in the hospitality sector.

The measure was also branded as unconstitutional by the president of the Cyprus Bar Association Christos Clerides who, in a social media post cited chapter 26 of the law and the country’s constitution saying they do not provide the possibility of introduction and enforcement of such a document.

In response, government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos told Politis radio that the only competent body to conclude whether the measure is unconstitutional is the court.

This was reiterated by the Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou during a press conference later on Thursday saying that people could refer to the court.

The minister argued there was no legal issue concerning the adoption of a Covid pass and reminded the public that the European Commission aims to introduce an EU Covid-19 certificate as a travel requirement.

The document, formerly known as “Digital Green Certificate”, is expected to be adopted by June and will be proof that a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus, has received a negative PCR test result or has recovered from COVID-19.

The EU Covid-19 certificate differs from the national ‘Covid pass’, the Commissioner for personal data protection Irini Loizidou Nicolaidou told the Cyprus News Agency, contradicting the health minister’s stance.

However, she did not share an official opinion as her office is still expecting the details of the new measure from the competent ministries.

Other business owners said the government’s decisions for the relaxation of measures by allowing the reopening of outdoor seating areas and hotels for locals were ‘moving in the right direction’.

“Covid pass is a secure framework for the reopening of the hotel industry,” the director of the Cyprus Hotels Association Philokipros Rousounides told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA).

The measure will ensure public health security and make Cypriots but also foreigners, who will be visiting the island with a negative coronavirus test or are vaccinated, to feel that they are in a safe controlled environment, Rousounides added.

Despite admitting there will be problems regarding the Covid pass, the president of the recreation centres association (Osika) Neophytos Thrasyvoulou focused on the reopening of the sector for the public calling the cabinet’s decisions ‘correct’.

On Monday, about 30 per cent of recreation centres nationwide will reopen, while the operation of other recreational centres such as night clubs, discotheques remain postponed.

The Covid pass, Thrasyvoulou told CNA, will be a responsibility of the customers and the association cannot intervene.

Several parties also criticised the government for adopting extreme and arbitrary measures that have not been proven successful in tackling the pandemic.

The Green Party said in a written statement that the Covid pass is a “harsh measure” which “affects basic human rights” and has “dubious and controversial result” according to the scientific community.

“The government takes decisions by decree and with ease violates human liberties,” Solidarity movement said, demanding an end to the ‘arbitrary’ and ‘contradictory’ measures.

Instead, the government should have staffed and equipped the hospitals this past year, Solidarity added, to be able to manage the patients.

Edek described the new measures, including the Covid pass, as “misplaced, insufficient, erratic and contradictory”.

According to initial information, police or other relevant bodies will be in charge of checks and not the establishments.

Further details regarding the establishments requiring a Covid pass, are expected to be announced later on Thursday.

At a first stage, the document is expected to be a physical copy of those certifications, pending the creation of an application by the deputy ministry of research, which is also in charge of the vaccination portal.

Other European countries, including Denmark, have adopted or considering the implementation of the so-called Covid pass.

The SMS system, imposed since November, will be scrapped on Monday with the implementation of the Covid pass.