Face masks will no longer be mandatory from today, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela has announced, citing an improved epidemiological picture.

Excluded are places considered high risk, such as hospitals, nursing homes, 24/7 facilities or facilities providing health care, pharmacies and public transport.

Speaking after the cabinet meeting, the minister said the use of face mask is still recommended in crowded places and for people who belong to vulnerable groups or those who come in contact with people belonging in vulnerable groups.

Furthermore, restaurants, bars, cafes and shops, as well as shopping malls can use again 100 per cent of their capacity as regards how many people they let in their premises. This measure, in force as of Wednesday, also includes churches, conference halls, football fields and casinos.

A free pack with five self-tests will be distributed to all primary and pre-primary school children upon their return to school in September, but mandatory rapid tests have been dropped.

Announcing the relaxations, Hadjipantela urged people to keep abiding by self-protection measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“After three years, we are in position to move with significant relaxations of the current measures, as the epidemiological data show significant improvement in our country,” the minister said.

However, he warned that these ‘encouraging developments’ should not lead to complacency and non-compliance with the personal protection measures.

To this end, cabinet recommended that all students, teachers and other school staff undergo a self-test before returning to schools.

A weekly self-test or rapid test was also recommended for everyone, regardless of vaccination status.

As regards the national action plan for the coronavirus pandemic, the minister said it includes actions “to protect public health while keeping society and economy open and resilient”.

“We will continue to raise awareness of the need to observe protection measures and the benefits of vaccination against Covid-19 among other things,” Hadjipantela added.