The cabinet on Monday decided on mandatory self-isolation for Omicron cases or any other future variants as of this Wednesday in an attempt to prevent the spread of new variant of concern.

Close contacts of Omicron cases will also need to self-isolate, regardless of vaccination status, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas announced after the meeting.

“Humanity is in a constant ‘war’ with a deadly virus that is changing faces, mutates, adapts and is transmitted faster and whose strikes are in some cases fatal and creates serious long-term problems in vital organs,” the health minister said.

According to the new measures, unvaccinated people will be banned from more venues as of this week.

Between December 15 and January 15, entry to social events such as weddings and baptisms and food establishments within hotels will be allowed only to people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine and present a negative PCR or rapid test, Hadjipantelas said.

People who have completed their vaccination regimen and those who have received the booster jab are not obliged to present a negative PCR or rapid test to enter such places. People who did not receive the booster jab seven months after their vaccination regimen was completed, however, will be allowed to enter these places with a negative PCR or rapid test, the health ministry said later in the day.

According to the current measures, unvaccinated individuals will not be able to visit key sectors including restaurants, cafés, pubs, music and dance venues, open air and covered stadiums, theatres and cinemas as of December 15.

People with a Covid recovery certificate not older than six months will not have to present any test results to enter such venues.

During the same time period, vaccinated people who are declared as close contacts of a confirmed coronavirus case will be obliged to undergo a rapid test within 72 hours and a free PCR test on the seventh day. Excluded are those who have received the booster dose.

Christmas events organised by companies and other organisations will be cancelled unless the relevant health protocols are followed, the minister added.

As of December 15, passengers arriving in Cyprus will also be required to undergo a free rapid test 72 hours from the day of their arrival. Testing will be carried out at the health ministry’s testing units upon presentation of a boarding pass. Excluded are those who received the booster jab.

The time for booster dose eligibility was also reduced from six months to five months and two weeks.

Hadjipantelas said people who have been excluded from vaccination for health reasons following a decision by the medical council will not be obliged to have their SafePass scanned through CovScan application but will need to present a negative weekly rapid or PCR test.

Cabinet also gave the greenlight for the vaccine rollout for children aged 5 to 11 which is expected to start this Thursday. Children belonging to this age group will receive 10mg of the Pfizer vaccine instead of 30mg for children aged 12 and older.

Vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11 will start on December 16 at the health ministry’s centres for the protection of motherhood and child welfare in all districts, by appointment only. More information will be announced at a later stage.

On January 15, cabinet will reassess an initial decision providing for vaccinated people who have not received the booster dose after seven months from their latest jab to be forced to do PCR 72-hour testing or a 48-hour rapid test. The decision will come into force as of December 18. This group of people, however, as of December 18, will be able to get free rapid tests at the testing sites operating in all districts on behalf of the health ministry.

Covid-19 was the cause of death of 5,310,000 people around the world, while in the last week in Cyprus, people died “who could have been saved, who essentially refused the help of the doctors and nurses,” he added.

“Acceptance of science has been and remains a key component of human progress for centuries.

“The entire scientific community around the world is sounding the alarm for several months now,” Hadjipantelas added, explaining that vaccination is “not a matter of individual choice”.

From the moment vaccines were administered worldwide, the minister said, there is clear evidence that they protect against the spread of coronavirus and serious hospitalisation.

The government or the health ministry does not separate among people, he added, “we offer everyone the opportunity to protect their own health and the health of their loved ones.”

Speaking on state television earlier in the day, health ministry advisor Maria Koliou said the arrival of Omicron cases in Cyprus will signify the beginning of a faster spread of infections.

She also highlighted that the “most important weapon” is to increase the vaccination rate of booster doses which will prevent serious infections but also to abide by the face mask mandate and social distancing rules.

The first three cases of Omicron were reported in the country on Friday among students at a Limassol technical school who have participated in a school trip in Glasgow. During contact tracing of the cluster at the specific school, an additional two Omicron cases were detected the next day.

All Omicron cases, including suspected cases were transferred to Eden rehabilitation resort in Tersefanou.