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Political decision all that remains before crossings open

The Ledra St checkpoint

Details on what checks and tests will be carried out for people crossing checkpoints around the island have been agreed and now it is a matter of political decisions, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Tuesday.

An announcement is expected on Wednesday about how people can cross while the checkpoints are set to open on Friday after restriction of movement between the two sides for more than a year.

Ioannou told the Cyprus News Agency that regarding the opening his ministry’s contribution was an agreement on the way of controlling people’s movement.

“This is almost complete, and it is now up to the political decisions to open the crossings,” Ioannou said.

He said that health protocols will be set. “This has been discussed in recent weeks. We were waiting from the Turkish Cypriot side their own position, which was given to us yesterday. It has been agreed how the tests will be performed, whether tests will be necessary, vaccinations, etc. What remains now is the official announcements.”

Concerns were raised however whether the reopening of crossings would be affected by the announcement in the north on Monday that 105 new coronavirus cases were detected. This included 85 people working on the same construction site.

Member of the government epidemiological team Dr Maria Koliou told Alpha TV on Tuesday morning there are concerns over the arrival of tourists in Cyprus and Cypriots travelling abroad during summer importing coronavirus variants that are more contagious.

She also said that the terms for the crossing of people between the two sides must be strict. “We see now there is a surge in the occupied areas, we must be careful,” Koliou said.

She also said that as many people arrive in the north from Asian countries either as visitors or students this could mean that the Indian or other variants could be imported to the island through there.

“It is very important to shield also that point of entry as we do not control checks on that side,” Koliou said.

She stressed the importance of vaccination coverage so people are protected against the virus and its variants.

On Monday negotiator Andreas Mavoryiannis, the special representative of the Turkish Cypriot leader Ergun Olgun and the UNSG’s special representative Elizabeth Spehar had a teleconference on the reopening of the crossings. They are scheduled to hold another one on Wednesday.

Ergun said that the aim was to open all crossing points, including that for pedestrians on Ledra street, in the centre of Nicosia.

Meanwhile, preparations are underway in the north for the arrival of tourists.

‘Deputy minister for tourism’ Serhan Aktunc said that from Friday the number of flights will increase while on Wednesday they will announce country categorisations.

According to reports in the north, he said that people arriving from red category countries will have to quarantine or remain within the grounds of the hotel they stay in. People who have received both vaccine doses from other countries will be able to enter the north without quarantine. They would have to present a negative PCR test and will be given a rapid test upon arrival in the north. There will be a similar practice for those arriving in Cyprus at Larnaca or Paphos airports and who want to cross to the north, he said.

Aktunc also said that as of June 10 casinos will open.

He also said they are expecting strong tourist interest from Turkey, the UK, and Israel.

It was also announced that the north has asked Turkey to lift the mandatory PCR test for people travelling there from the north. Aktunc said that the north was a safe destination and lifting this obligation would boost tourism.

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