Cyprus pledges to cover costs for virus-hit tourists

NICOSIA, CYPRUS (AP) – Cyprus is pledging to cover all costs for anyone testing positive for the coronavirus while on vacation on the eastern Mediterranean island nation, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press yesterday.

The Cypriot government said it will cover lodging, food, drink and medication for COVID-19 patients and their families. Patients will only have to pay for the taxi ride to the airport and the flight back home.

A 100-bed hospital will cater exclusively to foreign travellers who test positive. About 112 intensive care units equipped with 200 respirators will be reserved for critically-ill patients. A 500-room “quarantine hotel” will be reserved for patients’ family members and other close contacts.

The pledge came in a five-page letter dated Tuesday that was sent out to governments, airlines and tour operators outlining strict health and hygiene protocols that the government is enacting to woo visitors to the tourism-reliant country.

Tourism directly accounts for 13 per cent of Cyprus’ economy. This year, the country expects to lose as much as 70 per cent of the EUR2.6 billion (USD2.85 billion) in tourism-generated revenue.

The letter, signed by Cyprus’ foreign affairs, transport and tourism ministers, boasts that the country has one of the lowest coronavirus ratios per capita in Europe after having tested more than 10 per cent of its population.

International air travel to Cyprus begins on June 9, initially from 19 countries, with passengers required to undergo a COVID-19 test three days prior to departure. That measure will be lifted on June 20 for 13 countries, including Germany, Finland, Israel, Greece and Norway.

Officials said travel will be expanded to more countries depending on a constant evaluation of their infection rates.

Passengers will have to show their test certificate prior to boarding an aircraft and may have to wear masks throughout the flight. Their temperature will be taken on arrival to Cyprus and some random testing may take place at no cost to the traveller.

Tourists will also have to fill out a “COVID-19 Traveler Declaration” stating all their travels 14 days prior to their Cyprus trip and that they have neither shown any coronavirus symptoms for 72 hours before departure nor that they have been in contact with infected people 14 days before.

While in Cyprus, people who aren’t in the same travel group are obliged to keep apart at least two square metres outdoors and three square metres indoors.

Regularly disinfected sunbeds will be two metres apart for people not belonging to the same travel group.

Hotel staff will be obliged to wear masks with rooms being disinfected after every departure. At restaurants and cafes, tables will be at least two metres apart with a maximum party size of 10. Guests will be encouraged to pay by card instead of cash.