Cyprus has enforced a partial lockdown to stem the rapid spread of COVID-19 infections.
Starting today (Monday), until 10 May, the island will effectively shut down, as the retail sector shutters and a night time curfew is enforced from 9pm.
At the start of the pandemic, Cyprus showed itself to be a regional leader in dealing with the crisis, but now the Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou says the number of new coronavirus cases has doubled in the past two weeks.
“The situation calls for difficult decisions and drastic measures,” Ioannou told the local press. “This lockdown will help us achieve that goal by containing the spread at least partially”.
Figures show the infection and hospitalization rate for younger people is on the increase, while the rate for the over 70 age group has stabilized.
However, Nicosia and coastal resort of Larnaca saw infection rates double in the period of just seven days.
From today, the public will be allowed to go out only once per day after receiving permission by SMS text message. A host of tougher new restrictions will see all shops close, with the exception of those selling food and other essential items.
Furthermore, restaurants, cafes, pubs, barber shops, and gyms will also have to close and the civil service work remotely.
According to media reports, advisors and ministers squabbled over how far the new regulations should be allowed to go.
The latest lockdown comes as a bitter blow to the holiday and hospitality sector which has been battered by the crisis. Many tourism businesses are struggling to stay afloat, while others have remained shuttered.
Authorities have confirmed the national vaccination campaign will be accelerated by letting private doctors to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine.