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Seeing COVID-19 Rise in Israel, Anastasiades Calls Off Jerusalem Visit

Αssociated Press

President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus addresses the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NICOSIA -- Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades won’t go to Jerusalem as planned because of a spike in COVID-19 cases in Israel that led to his government raising the risk category for tourists from there who want to visit the island as tourism is rebooting after a lockdown.

Anastasiades had been set to visit Israel on June 23 to talk about energy, tourism and rising tensions with Turkey, but decided to postpone the visit to an unspecified date, a government spokesman said, according to the Cyprus Mail.

He would have followed Greek Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis to visit Israel after the Greek leader and other ministers went there to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his trial on corruption charges.

During the visit, Netanyahu said Israel was planning to reopen its borders to tourism with Greece and Cyprus starting Aug. 1 with Israelis already beginning to go back to Cyprus, among the first allowed.

But Cyprus has put Israeli tourists in a higher risk category, meaning they will need to be tested three days before boarding a flight and will need to carry a special certificate of health, according to the Financial Mirror.

With Cyprus still hoping to salvage something of a summer season with the end of a lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, some hotel owners are rethinking whether to reopen after seeing the jump in cases in Israel.

That country is a key market for Cyprus but the island's health authorities elevated Israel into a higher-risk category which means tourists from there will need to be tested before arriving as well as there.

Hotels are set to open in July but demand is low so far, with travelers still reluctant for now to take a chance on getting the virus on airplanes or in another country although Cyprus said it would pay the cost for anyone who contracts COVID-19 while there.

“Hoteliers are thinking twice over opening their units in July because there are no reservations. Tourists from Israel will only be coming for a three or four-day holiday,” the Chairman of the Cyprus Hoteliers Association’s (CHA) Famagusta branch, Doros Takas, told the news site.

Those in the lowest risk category do not need to be tested or quarantine upon arrival starting June 20. Israel in May saw the number of new daily coronavirus infections drop to only a few dozen, but has since seen a resurgence of COVID-19, with close to 200 new cases each day, The Times of Israel reported.

Netanyahu said that Israel would not take any more steps to roll back restrictions but may reimpose lockdowns in some places in a bid to curtail the spread with no report why it had restarted again.

Israel and Cyprus in January signed a deal with Greece for the so-called EastMed pipeline

to ship gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe, despite Turkey’s resistance to the deal.

The 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) pipeline will be able to carry between nine and 12 billion cubic meters of gas a year from offshore reserves held by Israel and Cyprus to Greece, and then on to Italy and other southeastern European countries.

The discovery of hydrocarbon reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has sparked a scramble for the energy riches and a row between Cyprus and Turkey, which has unlawfully occupied the northern third of the island since a 1974 invasion.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)