More schools, gyms to open as Cyprus eases lockdown

By AFP | Feb 25, 2021

al-monitor

Cyprus on Thursday announced that more children will return to school while tentatively opening gyms as it gradually exits a national lockdown to contain Covid-19 infections.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said the government was determined to allow a return to normal life "slowly, carefully and in a controlled manner".

The number of new Covid-19 infections has been stabilising and hospital admissions are down, he said.

The Mediterranean island went into lockdown on January 10 for the second time since last March after daily cases hit a record 907 on December 29.

The government is relying on a process of "test, trace and vaccinate" to keep the pandemic in check, the minister sai

d.

He said 70 percent of people aged over 80 have been vaccinated, while Cyprus expects delivery of 160,000 vaccines next month.

Between March 1-8, all private and state high schools are to reopen, Iannou said.

Gyms and other indoor sports facilities such as swimming pools can also operate, although with limited numbers.

Ioannou said if all goes according to plan, the hospitality sector can welcome customers under strict guidelines from March 16.

Between February 1 and 8, retail shops, malls, primary schools and hairdressers reopened, and up to 50 percent of employees were allowed to return to work if they underwent regular tests.

However, a night-time curfews remains in place, as does a ban on restaurants and bars apart from deliveries and takeout.

And Cypriots who leave home for exercise, shopping or an emergency still need to receive official approval by text messages, with outings restricted to twice a day.

Household visits are limited to four at any one time, while all social and public gatherings remain banned.

New Covid-19 cases have subsided to under 200 a day.

The total number of recorded infections stands at more than 33,700, including 231 deaths.

Cyprus mostly kept a lid on the pandemic by introducing an early lockdown in March that was gradually eased from early May.

Face masks are mandatory indoors and outdoors, except at home.

Cyprus has begun rolling out a vaccination programme against Covid-19, with nearly 69,000 people having received jabs.

Ioannou said the target was to vaccinate 200,000 of the more than one million population by early April.

The second wave of coronavirus has hit Cyprus hard, especially with the new variant found in the UK also reaching the holiday island.