Anxious to get the economy going again after a long lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, Cyprus is faster lifting measures and expect a full opening on June 24 instead of July 14, said Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou.
That came after a June 4 report said there were no new cases, keeping the number of cases in the country at 958, among the lowest in the world with the lockdown credited with saving lives and now allowing a quicker reopening of businesses.
There were 1,996 tests carried out, including 291 on people working in hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, tattoo shops and restaurants as part of a government plan to test 10,000 in these sectors, The Cyprus Mail reported.
Three were tested from people working in retail and construction, as part of a government scheme testing 20,000 in the sectors and another eight tests from repatriated individuals.
A further 97 tests were carried out as part of the contact-tracing process from apps on mobile phones. From tests in schools, 1,074 results came back negative. Hospital labs processed 218 tests, there were 164 test results from private individuals, and 141 tests from vulnerable groups, all of which came back negative.
“We hope to never have to meet again under circumstances similar to those we have lived through,” virologist Dr. Leontios Kostrikis said.
He said the paste few months “were filled with tension, worry, creativity, teamwork, with good but also difficult times,” and thanked scientific teams who helped guide President Nicos Anastasiades.
The results have been so satisfactory that it was the last day of briefings on the country's progress in dealing with the disease, sessions that began on March 24 when fears were growing fast about the pandemic's effect.
“We have given our all and continue to give all of our efforts for the common good. We are very satisfied by the outcome of these efforts and we are allowed as a society to be very proud,” Kostrikis said.
Starting June 9, shopping malls, airports, the interior seating of hotels, bars and restaurants, and open-air theaters and cinemas will be back in business. Sports events, minus spectators, kindergartens, playgrounds, summer schools and school canteens also are set to reopen on that date.
The country's casinos, dance schools, gyms, theme and water parks open their doors four days later, according to the government's schedule. A 10-person limit on public gatherings will stay in effect at least until June 24.
Indoor cinemas and theaters are expected to open in early August, while music concerts, festivals, wedding and christening receptions and graduation ceremonies will again be permitted on Sept. 1.
The government is eager to kick-start foreign tourism, which directly contributes 13% to the country's gross domestic product. Only a handful of hotels are now open to cater to travelers within Cyprus as passengers will be required to produce health certificates declaring them coronavirus-free.
Tourism officials in Cyprus, an east Mediterranean island nation, are counting June 20 as the real start of the tourist season. That's when the health certificate requirement for passengers from those countries is dropped and flights from six more countries will be permitted.
The Cypriot government has pledged to cover all costs for anyone testing positive for the coronavirus while on vacation.
The government said it will cover lodging, food, drink and medication for COVID-19 patients and their families. Patients will only have to pay for the taxi ride to the airport and the flight back home.
Commercial flights are set to resume on June 9 from an initial batch of 13 countries, including Germany, Finland, Greece, Austria and Israel, that were selected because of low infection rates.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)