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Coronavirus: Ministry issues clarifications over latest measures

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The health ministry issued further clarifications on Friday for the new Covid measures introduced this week.

Perhaps the most notable change from the initial announcement is that on the policy of the unvaccinated being prohibited from most areas of public life, such as cafes, bars and restaurants, some tweaks have been made.

The cabinet decision said that from December 15, people aged 12 and above who have not received at least one shot of a Covid vaccine will be banned from hospitality venues, cinemas, theatres, and sports facilities, both indoor and outdoor.

The policy, it was clarified on Friday, outlines that those with only one dose of a two-dose regimen must also present a negative PCR or rapid test.

The ministry stated that professional athletes, workers in the sports sector, and those aged between 12 and 18 who train or take part are exempt. It did not clarify further.

For theatres, cinemas and other relates venues, workers are exempt if they have proof of a negative PCR or rapid test.

As for nightclubs, cafes, bars and restaurants, workers are exempt provided they have proof of a negative test.

Those staying in hotels are exempt if they have a valid SafePass while tourists will be subject to the decrees currently in force – not those which were announced this week.

The ministry said that those who have completed their vaccine regimen but do not proceed with a ‘booster’ dose after seven months will have to provide proof of a Covid-19 test to gain entry into most places, such as bars, cafés and restaurants.

This is a major departure from the initial announcement which had stated that the double-dosed had to proceed with a booster shot to retain their SafePass’ validity.

It further stated that children aged five to 11 are exempt if they have a SafePass, while no restrictions apply to those below the age of five.

“In all other areas not mentioned above, the existing provisions based on the decrees continue to apply,” the announcement reads.

Some children aged six and above (who are now subject to mask mandates) are exempt from the decree.

Those exempt are children who face difficulties removing the mask on their own due to severe physical or mental conditions, as are those with severe autism and those diagnosed with acute or chronic conditions of severe respiratory conditions.

It was also stated that primary school students (whom from November 29 must test weekly for Covid-19) will be able to attend next week – only – without a rapid test, as tests will be carried out at schools during that time. It said that further guidelines will be made available by the ministry of education.

Addressing another point, that all Christmas related gatherings such as school plays are cancelled barring special exemption by the health ministry, it stated that school photographs will go ahead. Students will have their pictures taken individually.

No further clarifications were given for other Christmas events over the instruction on Wednesday that permission had to be granted by the ministry.

Printed forms can be used for CovScan by everyone (younger and older groups were already previously exempt).

It had also been announced that areas designated as being at a high risk of transmission will lead to people being tested regardless of their vaccination history. The ministry stated that the criteria and designations will be decided by the contact tracing team, who in turn will reach out to the impacted sectors or local authorities.

As for self-testing (which will be provided by pharmacies for free to the vaccinated and at a cost to the unvaccinated), the ministry reiterated that such tests do not count towards a person’s SafePass. Should a person test positive, a follow-up PCR test will be ordered via their GP. Further information as to how the self-test programme will work will be detailed in a future announcement.

It was also announced that booster doses will be made available to the 30+ soon, while those who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons will have to receive such approval from the ad hoc committee of the Cyprus Medical Association.

Those who have recovered from Covid-19 are exempt provided they have proof of their infection and six months have not elapsed.

Some further distinctions according to a person’s age for the SafePass are: A person who has received one dose of the vaccine (aged between 12-17) or is recently recovered, must also have a negative PCR or rapid test valid for 72 hours.

For those aged 18 and above, the PCR test is valid for 72 hours while rapid tests are issued for 48 hours.

As for free rapid tests, those who have received their first dose of Pfizer are eligible for free testing up to three weeks since their vaccination, while those who received Moderna are eligible for four weeks.

For the double vaccinated, who have not received their booster, they are eligible for free testing for seven months.

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