Thirty-three new cases of coronavirus were announced by the health ministry on Tuesday, bringing the total to 695. Announcing the new cases, virologist Leontios Kostrikkis said three cases were part of the testing of 20,000 workers in the public and private sector, ten were from contacts with other cases, one arrived from abroad on Monday, and 16 were from a company in Aradippou where 10 workers previously tested positive. The rest are being investigated. Kostrikis said the 16 from the company were also found to be living in the same apartment building, “where social distancing measures were not being enforced”. So far, he said, of the 20,000 tests to be conducted on workers in the public and private sector as of Saturday, 1,276 have been processed. Kostrikis added the results of cases found through contact tracing is encouraging. “However, the number of positive cases found among the population concerns intensely, as it confirms our worries the virus is in the community and is spreading,” Kostrikis said. Many individuals have been infected because they did not take the appropriate safety precautions, and did not understand the importance of social distancing, he added.
Mass testing that began on Saturday focusing on healthcare workers and those in service areas who deal with people both in the public and private sector, has revealed until now, a number of confirmed cases in at least one supermarket, Alphamega in Nicosia and one bakery production facility, Zorbas in Aradippou, Larnaca. State epidemiologist Michalis Voniatis urged people who had specifically visited the supermarket and bakery in question in the last two weeks to declare it to the competent authorities and to get tested as soon as possible.
A total of 548 diagnostic tests were carried out in the past two days on health professionals and public hospital staff as part of measures to combat the spread of the pandemic in Cyprus, state health service organisation Okypy announced on Tuesday. Testing began in the Paphos and Famagusta hospitals on Tuesday morning, Okypy spokesman Pambos Charilaou said. The tests on 6,500 health professionals and staff of public hospitals started on Sunday and are part of the 20,000 employees in the public and private sectors who will be sampled. Sampling on health workers is expected to be completed in 10 days and the full 20,000 by the end of the month.
Cyprus’ GDP is projected to contract by 6.5 per cent this year as a result of measures and policies being taken worldwide to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said in its latest World Economic Outlook. Assuming no recurrence of the pandemic next year, the IMF estimates that the Cyprus economy will rebound in 2021 with a 5.6 per cent growth in GDP. The previous World Economic Outlook, published in October last year prior to the coronavirus outbreak, had projected the Cypriot economy would grow by 2.9 per cent in 2020.
Cyprus expects a 60% drop in tourist arrivals or 1.5 million tourists in the best-case scenario due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Deputy Minister for Tourism, Savvas Perdios has told CNA. Perdios said that Cyprus’ basic scenario provides for inflow of tourists to begin in July according to an extraordinary action plan drafted for this year. In an interview with CNA, the Deputy Minister for Tourism said the base case scenario for 2020 provides for a drop of 60% or 1.5 million tourists, a reduction expected to be recovered in the next two or three years, adding that “changes to Cyprus’ national strategy for tourism are necessary if we want to achieve recovery next year.” “If for whatever reason we will not be able to receive the first tourists in July and tourist inflow begins in August or September the action plan’s timeframes will be moved accordingly,” he said. Perdios noted that all tourist stakeholders have been briefed on the 2020 action plan, which will be implemented on the condition that “if all goes well, we will be able to receive the first tourists in July.” “Our basic advertising campaign both at home and abroad, which will begin in the end of May and run throughout June, is based on this condition,” he added. Furthermore, Perdios said that due to the reduction of tourist inflow, following flight and tourist packages cancellations “it is imperative to broaden our horizons in the next two years with all those incorporated in our national strategy for tourism and to contemplate how to change our product with a view to broadening our markets and targets.”
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has flown eight metric tonnes worth of medical supplies to Cyprus for around 10,000 healthcare workers currently fighting the coronavirus pandemic, the official news agency of the UAE reported on Tuesday. “Providing assistance to countries affected by the virus is a humanitarian obligation upon all countries, as strengthening multilateral cooperation is necessary to overcome this crisis,” UAE Ambassador to Cyprus Sultan Ahmed Ghanem Al Suwaidi said.
Two thousand Cypriots are expected to be repatriated by next week, Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said on Tuesday as two flights carrying Cypriots arrived Larnaca airport. Commenting on the repatriation scheme in place, Karousos said starting with this week’s flights, they are expecting to bring about 2,000 individuals by next week. He added that the figure corresponds with the maximum amount of space available in the quarantine hotels. “The [repatriation] plan will continue based on the number of available quarantine beds,” he said. Karousos said the repatriation flights will start with Cypriots stuck in the UK and Greece, and more flights from other countries will be scheduled later.
The school year will be completed, Minister of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth, Prodromos Prodromou told CNA, adding t hat there will be solutions for the children to continue school and for graduates to achieve a credible school leaving certificate and compete for positions at the public universities in Cyprus and Greece. As we get a clearer picture of how things develop, with the data provided by the government advisors and epidemiologists, we will be able to announce how the rest of the year will be completed, he said. The Minister held teleconference with the parents’ associations from all levels of education. He said the discussions were constructive, noting they provided useful suggestions. He also informed them on the course of online education and support as well as the next steps. He informed the parents on the ministry’s planning for the rest of the year and about the graduates and the Pancyprian admissions’ tests “as they are a priority and concern for all”. The Minister urged teachers to continue providing educational support to children during the next two weeks which are part of the Easter holiday. He suggested they take a break from Holy Thursday until Easter Tuesday. It is important to maintain communication and a sense that teachers are standing by the children, he added. Regarding planning, he said as the days go by, we will have a clearer picture and with the data provided by the government’s advisors and epidemiologists, we will be able to announce how the rest of the school year will continue. As far as graduates are concerned, he said the children will be examined for the material they have covered until 13th of March. However, there will be announcements. “We will provide solutions for the children’s school career and for graduates to claim positions at the public universities of Cyprus and Greece on equal terms with credible procedures”, the minister added. The minister said he assured parents, especially those of elementary education that the support will continue. Asked if planning will be disrupted if the exams for entry to the Greek universities take place in September, Prodromou said “we don’t have planning for September”. However, he said that if the epidemiological situation is altered, then we cannot exclude anything. The effort is to prepare the exams before the enlistment of the new National Guard conscripts, the minister said. He further added that all children that do not have tablets will be given while internet services will be installed in all the 2000 cases which applied.
Police booked 48 drivers and pedestrians for breaking the curfew and stay at home decree overnight, a drop on previous days. From 6 pm on Monday to 6 am on Tuesday, police carried out 4212 checks on pedestrians and drivers.
In an update on the progress of payments for the government’s support schemes for workers and businesses financially hit by the coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Labour announced that on Tuesday 20,500 payments were processed for the childcare scheme and the self-employed scheme. The Ministry advised that payments will continue in the coming days for those who provided bank account details and meet the requirements.
Exxon Mobil have informed the government they will be delaying a planned drill in their block 10 concession in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), with other oil companies expected to do the same due to the ongoing coronavirus situation as well as the sharp drop in energy prices globally. Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis confirmed that in recent days he was informed in writing by ExxonMobil that they have pushed back to September 2021 an appraisal (or follow-up) well at the site dubbed Glafcos in block 10. The Glafcos reservoir, bearing an estimated 5 to 8 trillion cubic feet of gas, is the largest gas discovery to date in Cyprus’ EEZ. The appraisal drilling would have helped the company with its commercialisation decision. The appraisal well there was initially scheduled for this summer. A second appraisal operation at the same site, planned for late 2020 or early 2021, has likewise been postponed to early 2022.