Cyprus hastens lifting of most remaining virus restrictions

MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The government of Cyprus accelerated the lifting of most of the country’s remaining coronavirus restrictions by three weeks, citing on Wednesday the country's consistently low infection rate since the lifting of a stay-at-home order a month ago.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said the third phase of the country’s gradual rollback of restrictions will be completed by June 24 instead of July 14.

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.

To date, Cyprus has reported 952 confirmed coronavirus cases and 17 deaths as a direct result of the virus.

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.

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 their low infection rates.

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.

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