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Our View: Opening of crossings will be a welcome development

The closed Ledra Street crossing point (Christos Theodorides)

We know how the northern part of Nicosia has been affected by the closure of the Ledra Street checkpoint, but the southern part too has seen a significant reduction of people, at least during daytime. It is no longer the bustling part of the old town it had been before the checkpoint was closed in March 2020.

That part of the old town looks abandoned nowadays, attracting only a small fraction of the people that walked the streets pre-lockdown. There were admittedly hundreds of tourists crossing north and south every day and they are no longer here, but the local residents of both sides regularly crossed, if only to have a coffee or a drink in different surroundings.

Will the crowds return now there has been an agreement to reopen all the crossings? It will depend on two factors. First, the health protocols, which have been agreed, could act as a deterrent. For instance, if a rapid test is required to cross, people might consider it too much hassle for the sake of a stroll and drink on the other side. This may not be such an issue for people crossing by car with the intention of spending the day on the other side but for people on foot it could be. Second is the fear factor which the authorities have imposed. Many will consider crossing a risk not worth taking, even if they have been vaccinated.

Member of the scientific advisory team Dr Maria Koliou, cultivating the fear factor, said on Tuesday that strict rules should be in place for those crossing, citing the previous day’s surge of cases in the north. Many people arrive in the north from Asian countries as students, she said, warning that the dreaded Indian variant could be imported to Cyprus in this way. “It is very important to shield that point of entry (checkpoints) as we do not control the checks on that side,” she said on Alpha TV.

This will always be a concern, as each side has its own health protocols and we suspect the possible risks will play on people’s minds. On the other hand, the cases have been in sharp decline for a few weeks, we are entering the summer season and a sizeable percentage of people have been vaccinated. But opening the crossings, especially Ledra Street, would be a welcome development, even if most people would be reluctant to cross. Once the political decision to open the crossing is taken, it will be up to each individual to decide what to do.

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