Cyprus’ Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou on Thursday announced the gradual lifting of most anti-coronavirus restrictions.
As of Monday, Ioannou said that all high school students will start returning to their classes, while restaurants and beverage premises will be allowed to resume normal operation as of March 16, on condition of applying a special health protocol which is being prepared.
Other education-related activities such as private teaching premises, gyms, dance schools and indoor sports facilities will also resume operation as of Monday.
However, people will still have to ask for permission to go out and a night curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. will remain in force for the time being.
The announcement for the lifting of most restrictions makes Cyprus one of the first countries in Europe to attempt a return to normality.
Ioannou said that the strategy for a gradual return to normality was decided after taking into consideration a European Center for Disease Prevention and Control directive for a close watch for new coronavirus variants.
He also said that the gradual approach to the lifting of restrictions was decided so as to provide more time for the vaccination of a wider section of the population.
He said that the decision was made by the Council of Ministers based on the latest assessments of the scientific team advising the government on the pandemic.
“The strategy is based on a three-pillar process of testing, tracing and vaccination,” Ioannou added.
He said that health authorities have achieved their target of vaccinating people over 80 and are continuing with the vaccination of people over 70 years of age.
Ioannou also said that vaccination will be sped up in March, which he termed as a crucial month for the end of the pandemic crisis. He expected that more than 50 percent of the population would receive the vaccine by the middle of summer.
As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in Cyprus and other countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.
Meanwhile, 255 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide — 73 of them in clinical trials — in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on Feb. 23.