Cyprus Allows Big Church Services During COVID-19 Restrictions

Αssociated Press

A couple wearing face masks walk by people at a coffee shop at Faneromeni square in central capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA -- After putting the clamps on restaurants, weddings, funerals and businesses during a COVID-19 lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the Coronavirus, Cyprus' government is trying to explain why it's allowing up to 75 to attend church services.

Restaurants must close at 7 p.m., closing off the lucrative night-time dinner crowd while weddings and funerals have a 10-person cap and a live broadcast of a church service set off anger after it showed people not wearing masks nor keeping a safe social distance.

Tighter restrictions went into effect Nov. 30 but have drawn fury from businesses such as the hospitality sector and gym owners who think it could shut them permanently, said The Cyprus Mail in a report on the reaction.

Also contradictory, said critics, are that schools are open but children can't take part in out-of-school activities, leading the Health Ministry to defend the measures in effect until at least Dec. 13.

The ministry said it had taken into consideration “psychological and social factors with the aim to ensure the operation of society with the least possible repercussions on the daily lives of people.”

The protocols are aimed at keeping people apart from each other in preventing public gatherings without an explanation why that isn't being done in churches although it's required in other areas such as restaurants and conference halls.

The ministry said the 10-person limit at social events as well as gatherings in homes was imposed to prevent large gatherings that could spread the virus, citing contract tracing showing those places are particularly dangerous hot spots.

Because of the nature of their activity, gyms are listed as high risk for transmission by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), it said, people sweating on shared equipment.

People exercising also can't wear masks in most cases and breathe harder, a prime method of transmitting the tiny droplets that carry the virus into people's faces, eyes, and mouths.