“The virus now landing ...”
By KEREM HASAN / Chief Reporter
The corona virus problem came back with a bang, just hours after the first passengers were allowed to enter the country on Wednesday.
Approximately 200 passengers landed at Ercan airport from Istanbul with Turkish Airlines, and 150 passengers came on Pegasus Airlines. On the same day, a total of 350 people arrived via the ferry from Taşucu to Girne.
Tourism minister Kutlu Evren and finance minister Olgun Amcaoğlu were present to see the arrival of the first aircraft – the “official” start of scheduled flights into the country following the 3.5 months lockdown.
Health Minister Ali Pilli then announced that three people, two Turks and a Kazakh national, had tested positive for the virus. Two came from the flights and one was a boat passenger. This sparked a nationwide hunt to find all those the trio may have had contact with.
And there was further despair amongst health experts when it was discovered that one man had completely ignored the required passengers’ declaration to self-isolate, by taking a taxi to a barber shop in Lefkoşa. Another was found to be staying at an unauthorised address. Both are to be prosecuted.
By Thursday Dr Pilli was forced to announce rule changes that effectively scrapped ‘Category A’ – which had allowed passengers to enter North Cyprus with a PCR test no older than 72 hours.
That day, a further 210 passengers arrived by air were placed in quarantine until new test results could be confirmed.
All countries including Turkey, that were in Category A
are were now in category B – requiring passengers take a PCR test within 72-hours of travel – AND another on arrival in North Cyprus. They will now be put into quarantine. One man who refused to do so has already been deported.
Foreign Ministry undersecretary, Güneş
Onar, told Cyprus Today: “Due to the latest developments, the government has for now suspended Category A.
Every person now entering the TRNC will now be taken to a quarantine centre until their PCR test results – done upon arrival at a TRNC port – have been returned.
T&T which manages Ercan airport, general manager Serhat Özçelik said that “all measures” has been taken for social distancing – with floor markings, disinfectant mats, and plastic glass at passport booths and at check-in desks.
Mr Özçelik also said thermal cameras have been placed at the entry points to the terminal building to measure the body temperature of passengers and airport staff, and there was an outright ban on people being able to enter without a mask
From now on, no one is allowed into the airport building except passengers and where applicable, an escort or guardian. Airport workers have recived Covid-19 educational training.
Category C countries – that includes countries like the UK – continues, compelling passengers to take a PCR test within 72-hours of travelling to the country, a 14-day quarantine – and another PCR test that must return a negative result.
Prime Minister Ersin Tatar – who received the Cyprus Turkish Chamber of Commerce president Turgay Deniz on Wednesday – had said it was “important to be realistic . . .we can’t be closed for ever!”
“Measures are being taken. The outbreak is more important than everything else which we give priority to when making decisions. Even when some believed there would have been chaos during the lockdown period, what was feared for health and economy never happened.”
Main opposition Republican Turkish Party leader Tufan Erhürman slammed the government for acting “irresponsibly” after reports of the man who went to the barber shop. “We told you last week that such rule [asking people to self quarantine] would not be enforceable.”
Social Democratic Party leader Cemal Özyiğit was also critical of the “form” that passengers from a category A country were asked to sign. “This form is nothing but a show. The form stated that the arriving passenger gives an undertaking of where to stay and self isolate. . .but it does not state what sort of penalty there will be if the passenger violates the terms.
“Didn’t the government know that enforcing this would not be possible? Why insist on something which was previously tried and failed?”