NICOSIA — Cyprus unveiled on Thursday a phased rollback of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions over the next month, including a shortened curfew and a reopening of all schools next week.
But the island will demand the compulsory display of proof of vaccination, virus testing or convalescence from COVID-19 in areas where people gather in numbers — including restaurants and churches — together with mask-wearing and social distancing.
A strict, two-week lockdown has curbed the record-high number of infections, although some health officials had wanted restrictions to be slightly extended.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou told a news conference that the primary purpose of the rollback that starts May 10 is to "lift the spirits of the public after months of sacrifices," without jeopardizing public health by abolishing all restrictions at one go. He said some restrictions will remain in place until at least the end of June, when authorities hope to have 60-65% of the population vaccinated.
As of next week, people will no longer need to secure text message permission to leave home. There will be caps on capacity at bars, restaurants, malls and parks that will be gradually increased from 30% to 50% over the next few weeks. Retail stores, gyms and hair dressing salons will also reopen.
But Ioannou said people will need to display to police either a vaccination card, a health services text message proving convalescence from COVID-19 or a negative PCR test carried out 72 hours prior to an outing at any place where people gather en masse.
Some exceptions will be made, including for going to supermarkets, pharmacies, beaches, parks and outdoor farmers' markets where people will be simply required to wear masks and keep distances.
Ioannou said the measure will be "temporary" and authorities are working on a smartphone application to simplify the procedure.
Authorities said already a third of Cyprus' population of roughly 875,000 people have received at least one shot as part of a ramped-up vaccination program that's seen as key to buoying the tourism-reliant country's chances of attracting more vacationers.