Cyprus tightens rules after record Covid cases

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A woman receives a vaccination against the coronavirus at a walk-in centre for tourists, workers and locals in the Cypriot Mediterranean resort city of Ayia Napa on 29 July, 2021 (AFP/Iakovos Hatzistavrou) (Iakovos Hatzistavrou)

Cyprus is tightening entry requirements and banning dancing after the Mediterranean island notched another record daily high of Covid-19 cases, the health minister said on Wednesday.

From January 4 to 15, everyone arriving in the Republic of Cyprus, a regional tourism destination, must present a negative PCR test carried out no more than 48 hours before departure.

Passengers are already required to undergo a PCR test at the airport on arrival, at their own expense.

Other new rules entering into effect in the coming days oblige companies to ensure 40 percent of their staff work remotely -- twice the current figure -- while hospitality venues can only have seated customers and no dancing.

Access to nightclubs, entertainment venues and wedding receptions will require vaccinated patrons to present a negative Covid-19 test carried out within 24 hours, though those with a booster shot are exempt.

All hospital visits have been banned, and sports stadiums are restricted to 50 percent capacity, down from 75 percent.

The tougher measures were announced after an emergency cabinet meeting as the Republic of Cyprus registered a record 3,002 new coronavirus cases -- the third daily high in a row in a country whose population is around one million.

Until this week the record was 1,152 cases reached in mid-July.

"Epidemiological indicators have rapidly deteriorated... with the possibility of an increase in hospital patient admissions," Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas told reporters.

He said 7,168 cases had been confirmed in the past three days, with the infection rate rising.

"The Omicron variant is now in the community and is expected to burden our epidemiological picture further," he added, referring to the highly-transmissable strain.

The minister lamented that people were not complying with personal protection measures, while "dozens of establishments and entertainment venues do not follow the health protocols".

Hadjipantelas said: "With more than 3,000 cases a day in our small population, it means that coronavirus threatens every one of us."

The Republic of Cyprus has officially registered 157,928 coronavirus cases and 635 deaths since the start of the pandemic, including five fatalities on Wednesday.

Mask-wearing is mandatory for everyone aged six and above in public outdoor and indoor areas such as malls.

Double-vaccinated employees must undergo weekly tests and unvaccinated individuals are banned from hospitality venues and nightclubs.

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