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Coronavirus: More than 5,000 crew members jabbed as part of Cyprus programme

More than 5,000 seafarers have been vaccinated so far as part of the government’s initiative to offer Covid-19 jabs to crews of ships flying the Cypriot flag or using the country’s ports, deputy shipping minister Vassilis Demetriades said on Tuesday.

The minister also said Cyprus has offered to become a vaccination hub for seafarers.

Speaking to state broadcaster CyBC, Demetriades said the inoculation of ship crews is part of the government’s initiative for the vaccination coverage of 40,000 seafarers.

The programme started at the beginning of July and over 5,000 crew members have been inoculated so far, he said.

Ship owners can request the necessary number of vaccines for members of staff wishing to get vaccinated and, in coordination with the health ministry the jabs are administered. Demetriades said the crews are administered the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines because they do not require special storage.

The doses are among the quantities the government has acquired for the vaccination of the wider population.

Demetriades also presented the government’s proposal to arrange for the vaccination of crews in general with vaccines donated also from other states. The proposal was adopted last April in a resolution by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

He said Cyprus has offered to become a vaccination hub for the crews of any ship.

“This of course, requires coordination among several states and the political will of states to give part of their unused vaccines for seafarers,” Demetriades said.

The resolution calls upon shipowners’ and seafarers’ organisations to contribute to a mapping exercise to identify the number of vaccines required for seafarers ashore. It also calls for a collective approach to secure the number of vaccines identified in the mapping exercise.

The deputy ministry said that since the emergence of the pandemic, Cyprus was one of the first countries to recognise seafarers as key workers and implement a formal crew change process. “These measures have resulted in over 20,000 seafarers being repatriated or able to return to work since May 2020,” it said.

This has landed it a nomination for the Safety4Sea Covid-19 Resilience Award, which will go to an organisation or association that created an action plan to tackle and responding to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Cyprus’ ministry, was nominated “for taking considerable action to resolve the crew change crisis.”

The public is invited to vote. Winners will be announced during a virtual ceremony on October 20.

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