Cypriot citizens stuck abroad when the country's international airport shut down to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus will be brought back on flights arranged by the government, but will be charged up to 320 euros ($346.46) each.
Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said the government is now planning to repatriate around 2,000 to Cyprus every two weeks, depending on the availability at quarantine facilities, The Cyprus Mail reported.
The Health Ministry said citizens as well as legal permanent residents in the country are now able to register onto the foreign ministry’s platform at www.connect2cy.gov.cy to pick a preferred repatriation date, including returning those in Greece.
Priority was initially given people who belonged to vulnerable categories who were abroad for medical reasons before the criteria eased to bring back students and then others stranded abroad, who had complained they were being left on their own.
But besides paying for the flights they be limited to only 30 kilos (66.14 pounds) of luggage per person, the government defending the cost and procedure after saying that was the lowest fare that could be obtained from flights from the United Kingdom because the flights will return empty.
The cost from Greece has been set at 150 euros ($162.41) plus taxes and the same baggage allowance, Karousos said, both from Thessaloniki as well as Athens, with airports in both cities almost shut down.
Efforts are currently underway to arrange for charter flights to stop off at more than one airport to pick up people stranded in other countries except UK and Greece, the report said, as passenger flights to Cyprus are otherwise barred.
Technical flights carried out following aircraft maintenance visits or major repairs, are still allowed, but only after receiving the approval of the civil aviation department.
Student union Proodeftiki complained the cost was too high for many to afford, the paper said.
“Taken into account not only the price of the plane tickets, but also the cost of the transfers to the airport, which are currently higher due to the restrictive measures in place regarding public transport, and the general cost of living abroad, we believe repatriation will simply be too expensive for students,” the statement said.
Proodeftiki urged the government to find cheaper deals with air carriers or to subsidize part of the cost of plane tickets for students.