‘TWO JABS MAY GET YOU HOME’
Taken from this week's issue
Speaking exclusively to this newspaper, Mr Üstel said the government is working to vaccinate more people across all age and risk groups in order to open up the country to tourism and make it easier for expats who own property here or who are renting to travel to North Cyprus.
A present, only certain categories of arrivals, such as people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, those over 70 and children under 12 are eligible to spend quarantine at home under the new “Stay Safe” electronic tagging system.
Following coverage in Cyprus Today last week of the confusion over whether or not a person aged under 70 can stay in home quarantine with a spouse over 70, the Health Minister said that such couples would be allowed to stay at home together.
“People who are in such a situation . . . will be able to state in their [home quarantine] application that they are [married],” he said.
“So if one spouse is under 70 and the other is over 70, they will not be separated and will be allowed to benefit from the home quarantine procedure [together].”
A new “Notam”, a notice to airlines, effective from April 22 to 11.59pm on April 30, confirmed the home quarantine criteria clarification. It also stated that the parents of children under 12 can stay in home quarantine with their offspring.
Mr Üstel also said that “the government is discussing what can be done for people who have had two [Covid-19] vaccine doses” and two negative PCR test results – one before and one after arriving in the TRNC – which could also mean a shorter home quarantine period.
He continued: “We are discussing . . . the prospect of scrapping the age rule and to expand home quarantine for all age groups,” he said.
“All of this depends on how many people we can get inoculated and the number of daily new Covid-19 cases. However, we are hoping to review the age criteria and expand the home quarantine system to apply to all ages by May, to coincide with the UK allowing its citizens free travel.”
May will be a “critical time”, Mr Üstel said, as that is when the tourism season starts and European and UK residents and tourists will be able to travel.
“The [electronic] bracelet system is going very well,” he said. “It is regulated by the Health Ministry, which is working together with the municipalities and the police, who are responsible for enforcing the quarantine system.”
Giving details about the electronic tagging system, Mr Üstel said that as of yesterday, a total of 1,447 wristbands had been issued since the start of the home quarantine scheme.
Of these, 1,104 are “active” including 442 for “indoor tourism” and 662 for home quarantine.
There have been 10 positive Covid-19 cases among those in home quarantine, five of which had been contacts of other positive cases.
Mr Üstel also revealed that a total of 54 people have been reported to the police for breaching home quarantine rules, and 11 people have been transferred from their homes to a quarantine centre.
Frank Mann, 73 and his wife Andrea, 69, who own a home in Lapta but are currently in Germany, said in our report last week that they were concerned at the prospect of being separated upon arrival in the TRNC because of the age criteria. The couple plan to visit in May.
Commenting on the latest developments, Mr Mann expressed his gratitude to Mr Üstel.
“Thank you very much for this positive news and many thanks to Health Minister Üstel for this decision, which will make life easier for all married couples in a similar situation,” he said.
“I trust that the regulation will be communicated to all the authorities along the line that have to deal with residents who return to the TRNC, such as airlines and immigration.
“Thanks as well to Cyprus Today for having taken up this issue with the authorities and for facilitating a positive outcome.”
British Residents Society chairman Peter Wilkins said he welcomed the news that the Health Ministry will allow spouses over and under the age of 70 to remain together at home during their quarantine period.
“This is a humane approach,” he said. “The ramifications had not been thoroughly thought through.”
Mr Wilkins said that there is “no reason” why people who have had two jabs and two negative PCR tests should “undergo a lengthy quarantine period at home”.
“May 17 is a key date in the UK, as that is when Brits will be able to travel without any of the current issues,” he said.
A written statement by the Health Ministry advises people who wish to travel to the TRNC and enter home quarantine to apply three days prior to travel.
The statement says that “someone should apply on your behalf by going to the Health Ministry, or by sending an email to email@example.com”.
Those over the age of 70 with a companion, and families with children under 12, are eligible for home quarantine “without getting special permission” the statement added.