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Coronavirus: Minister unveils tighter SafePass rules (Update 1)

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Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas

A SafePass will be required at all locations outdoors or indoors where more than 20 people congregate as from July  20 after the government on Friday decided to step up efforts to protect the health system amid an explosion of new coronavirus cases. 

The requirement also applies to banks, public transport, and public and semi government and local government buildings.

This means that in order to receive service at these premises, the public must be vaccinated or have a 72-hour negative coronavirus test or have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months.

Customers at hospitality venues must be seated at all times, a maximum of ten per table, and no dancing is allowed unless customers have been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid. Children’s camping sites must close by July 23.

Indoor venues accepting only vaccinated clientele or those who were infected in the past six months will be allowed to host 450 people from 250 and outdoors from 350 to 500. The manager or owners of the premise must inform the health ministry that the premises only accept vaccinated people or those who have recovered from Covid in the past six months to receive permission.

No visits will be allowed to care homes without a SafePass. Residents are recommended not to leave the care home. If they do, on their return they must show a negative rapid test result.

The new SafePass rules announced by Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas and accompanied by an array of incentives to encourage young people who account for the majority of new infections to get vaccinated.  He clarified that the SafePass requirement for places where more than 20 people congregate will be in force until July 31. The 20 person rule also applies to employees, he said.

All the measure will come into force on July 20 and be regulated by decree, he added.

The carrot and stick approach comes as the public health system scrambles to cope with an unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases with new highs recorded for three consecutive days. Hospital admissions have climbed above 180, prompting the ministry to order a postponement on non-urgent operations. 

President Nicos Anastasiades set the mood earlier on Friday. In a televised address after cabinet decided on the measures, he stressed that though the government did not intend to divide the people into the vaccinated and non-vaccinated, the state has a duty to protect all the citizens’ right to life and work.

In the past, lockdowns were the way to address the pandemic. Since then, however, people can protect themselves from Covid by vaccinating. Making the decision to display a SafePass stricter, aims to protect the country’s health system and the viability of businesses. 

“Not to put in danger the right of those vaccinated to enjoy their freedoms. That is why the many should not be put in danger because of the few.”

The SafePass is already required for most hospitality venues, to go to church and from most employers.

Announcing the measures, Hadjipantelas said that with all indicators show a rapid deterioration, cabinet had decided on additional measures to stop the jump in what he called a killer virus that endangers life.

The ‘weapon’ to contain this enemy are vaccines and personal protection measures. Society was on the right road, with the majority having received the first dose – the number will surpass 70 per cent in a few days, while more than 60 per cent have completed their vaccination, he said.

But the effort must continue, with encouraging results from the walk-in vaccination clinics and mobile units, the minister said as he again appealed to young people to get the jab.

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