Airports open in Cyprus in bid to revive tourism sector

Cyprus reopened its airports to tourists on Thursday in a bid to revive its largest economic sector, a spokeswoman for the operator of the country’s two international airports said.

She told CyBC state radio that, as of April 1, international travelers are no longer required to quarantine upon arrival, but they are requested to present one or two negative COVID-19 tests according to the classification of the country where they come from.

Minister of Transport, Communications and Works Yiannis Karousos said that more than 800 flights to and from Cyprus are expected until the end of April, up from less than 150 in March, with about 30 airliners offering a total of 140,000 seats.

However, Deputy Minister of Tourism Savvas Perdios said that he did not expect very large numbers of tourists in the next three months, mostly because of restrictions on travel imposed by the United Kingdom (UK) until mid-summer and the slow pace of vaccination in Russia.

The two countries are the largest tourist markets for Cyprus. In 2019, 1.33 million UK tourists visited the island, which also attracted 782,000 Russians and registered 295,000 arrivals from Israel. Cyprus has a population of about 900,000.

The Health Ministry said an agreement between Israel and Cyprus, which came into force on Thursday, provides that people who are permanent residents of either country can travel without any restrictions provided that they have a certificate from the health authorities of their country of origin that they have received both doses of vaccine approved by the European Union (EU).

It added that the holders of an Israeli vaccination certificate must still obtain a CyprusFlighPass.

Other Israelis traveling to Cyprus must have a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test taken before departure and must also take a similar test on arrival.

Ahead of the reopening of the airports to tourism, the Cypriot Health Ministry upgraded the UK, Russia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Belarus from the “grey” to the “red” epidemiological category.

Serbia, the U.S., Armenia, Georgia, Bahrain and Qatar were already “red” category countries, along with most European states.

Passengers from these countries who are not holders of a vaccination certificate must present two negative PCR tests, one taken within 72 hours before departure and another upon arrival in Cyprus.

Passengers from low-risk “green” category countries, which are Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Saudi Arabia, are not required to either hold a negative coronavirus certificate or self-isolate after arrival.

Passengers from countries classified by the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) as “orange” are only required to hold a negative PCR test certificate not older than 72 hours upon arrival.

“Orange” category countries are Portugal, China, South Korea and Thailand.

Several hotels in Cyprus’ major tourist areas have reopened, but restaurants, cafes and pubs still operate under restrictions. They can serve customers in outdoor spaces only with no more than six people per table.

Dance clubs, which are very popular with tourists, are not allowed to operate at all.

Local people are currently not allowed to stay in hotels.

Zoi Dorothea Pana, an infectious diseases expert who is a member of the scientific team advising the Health Ministry, said that a slow return to normality is planned based on the progress of vaccination.

She said that a return to a state resembling normality should be expected after mid-June, when about half the population will have been vaccinated.

The pace of vaccination has picked up after the delivery of large quantities of approved vaccines, with adults over 45 expected to be vaccinated by mid-April.

Vaccination is also underway in an increasing number of countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 268 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide — 84 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 March 30.