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COVID-19 Mask Wearing Confusion on Cyprus After New Measures

Αssociated Press

People wearing face masks as they walk in Ledra street a main shopping street in the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

A mandate from Cyprus' government that masks must be worn outdoors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 has so many interpretations that it's uncertain when and where it has to be done, critics said.

The announcement by Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou on Thursday – making the use of masks obligatory in all outdoor areas except when exercising – has led to widespread confusion, The Cyprus Mail said.

While police said they will enforce the law, the ministry said there's room for discretion.

“If a couple from the same household are walking in a park and there is no one nearby for 3-4 meters then they don’t have to wear a mask,” Margarita Kyriacou, Ministry spokeswoman, told the paper.

“But if they are taking a walk in Ledra street in Nicosia they do have to wear a mask because there are lots of people there,” she said, referring to the capital city's busiest street that leads up to the Green Line dividing Cyprus from the northern third occupied by Turkey since an unlawful 1974 invasion.

Police spokesman Christos Andreou said that the decree mandates masks be worn in all outside areas and officers won't make exceptions .“It says outdoor areas, it doesn’t even specify public areas,” Andreou said, although he added that police would use their judgment in some cases.

Kyriacou told the paper that the police have been instructed to be flexible where possible as people are asking a plethora of questions, such as whether they have to wear a mask while walking their dog around a neighborhood.

“If it’s crowded, they have to wear a mask, otherwise if they’re taking a walk in the park or along the beachfront and they are alone – it’s not crowded – they don’t have to wear the mask,” Kyriacou said.

Adding to the uncertainty is that while masks are required in public gathering places such as restaurants, they can't be worn while eating even though people are sitting next to each other.

Apparently, masks don't have to be worn at a dining table but must if a person gets up to use the bathroom, greet someone at another table – violating the safe social distance – or entering or leaving the restaurant.