Item 2- 26/03/20 – Letter from BHC on COVID-19

News Item 2  – 26 March 2020

Open Letter to British Nationals in Cyprus on COVID-19

UK IN CYPRUS – BRITISH HIGH COMMISSION NICOSIA·

FaceBK : WEDNESDAY, 25 MARCH 2020· READING TIME: 7 MINUTES

The world is facing an unprecedented crisis in tackling the spread of COVID-19. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared it the biggest threat the UK has faced in decades. In Britain and Cyprus the authorities are introducing radical measures to protect the population from the virus.

I know that many of our British community here in Cyprus are worried about the current situation, the new restrictions imposed by the government, and feeling isolated from friends and family back home. I am writing to you to address some of these concerns, and set out what the High Commission is doing and how we can support.

We are regularly updating our Travel Advice for Cyprus (https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/cyprus) and encourage you to use this as your first point of reference for updates on the local situation, subscribing to alerts if you have not already done so.

Tourists

Around 5000 British tourists were able to leave the island before the closure of hotels and the flight ban which came into force on Saturday 21 March. We continue to liaise with local authorities, airlines and tour operators on next steps for those tourists who were unable to leave, or chose to stay. As always, we continue to focus our consular effort on those most in need of assistance, including the elderly and those in need of medical assistance.

The flight ban to and from the island is currently in operation until 4 April in the Republic, and until further notice for flights into the north of the island. So if you are a tourist you need to focus first on ensuring that you have accommodation until you are able to secure a flight home. Although hotels in the Republic have closed, there is still a lot of other accommodation available, which can be found on the usual websites.

The government in Cyprus has said that even during the ban it will allow passenger flights to arrive in Cyprus empty, to take people back home. So you should continue to check airline websites regularly for new flight options. This could include flying to a third country and changing flights to get back to the UK – but in that case please check FCO travel advice for the third country in case there are any restrictions on Britons entering.

At the same time, flight websites may not always be accurate. If you have a booking that falls within the ban period, contact the airline to ensure it will still be leaving as advertised.

British Residents

The High Commission is keeping in close touch with community representatives as we face this crisis together. Difficult times like this can bring out the best in people as they look out for each other in shared adversity. I know there are already some great community initiatives to help more vulnerable members of the community, including the Helping Hand Cyprus group and the Cyprus Aid website (https://cyprus-aid.com/). Please tell us about others so we can help you to promote them. And where you have concerns, please use your local British community representatives to share them with us.

For the time being, our advice for British residents of the island is to:

    • Ensure you keep in touch with friends and family to support you during this period.
    • Follow the advice of local authorities. You must be ready to comply with local isolation, testing or quarantine requirements, and will need to rely on the local health system.
    • Follow our Travel Advice for further developments affecting British nationals on the island.
    • If you continue to use a UK mobile phone, consider getting a local SIM card for your telephone to facilitate contacting local hotlines, such as 1420 for suspected coronavirus symptoms, and 8998 for requesting permission to leave your home. Attached to this letter is a short summary of rules on leaving your home over the coming period.
    • Only contact us on +357 22 861100 (choosing the consular option) if you require urgent consular assistance, so that we can dedicate our time to helping the most needy.

For British nationals living in the north of the island, we understand your concerns about being unable to cross the Green Line at the present time, the risk of overstaying your permitted length of stay due to the ongoing coronavirus situation, and the potential risk of medical shortages. We are monitoring the situation and are in touch with local authorities and the British Residents’ Society. As elsewhere in the island, please ensure you comply with local restrictions on leaving your homes.

We also know that some British residents of Cyprus wish to return, but are unable to do so. We realise that this is frustrating, and you may have obligations which you need to attend to here. However, until flights resume, you have little choice but to remain where you are. Please note that even after flights resume, you will need to comply with the Republic’s health certification and quarantine rules. Additionally, the authorities in the north have prohibited re-entry for foreign residents until further notice.

Finally, the High Commission remains in close contact with the administration of the Sovereign Base Areas on their approach to the crisis, and the Bases are closely mirroring measures introduced in the Republic to stem the spread of the virus and protect the local population.

The next few weeks are set to be a testing time for all of us, not only here on the island, but all around the world as new restrictions are placed on daily life in order to attempt to curb the spread of the virus. Please look after yourselves during this period, follow medical advice on the basic precautions which we can all take to protect ourselves from coronavirus, use your extra free time at home to do things you enjoy, or have been putting off for a while, and look out for friends and neighbours who may require extra support. Please also continue to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for new information and updates.

Best wishes,

Stephen Lillie CMG

British High Commissioner

ANNEX

Summary of restrictive measures put in place on personal movement within Cyprus applicable to all

Republic of Cyprus

The Republic has imposed a partial curfew from 18:00 on 24 March until 13 April. During this period everyone must avoid any “unnecessary movement”, with the following exemptions:

    1. transfer to and from the workplace.
    2. visiting a pharmacy, a doctor, or for a blood donation;
    3. visiting a store to obtain essential goods or services;
    4. visiting a bank if a transaction cannot be done online; absolutely necessary visits to state services, public-sector services or municipal services;
    5. visiting persons who are unable to help themselves or are in self-isolation;
    6. going outdoors for exercise or to walk one’s pet, for two persons at a maximum and the distance must be close to one’s residence;
    7. attending ceremonies like funerals, weddings or baptisms, provided you are a first-degree or second-degree relative and the gathering must be no more than 10 people at any one time;
    8. any other reason (generic) for moving outside that may be justified despite the restrictions.

People who want to travel to and from their workplace need to carry this form completed by their employer once for the duration of the curfew period.

For any of the other categories, people need to fill in this form or send a SMS to 8998, with the following information in the body of the message:

  • the number from 1 to 8 corresponding to the reason you are going outside, followed by a space
  • your ID number, followed by a space
  • your Cyprus postcode

A reply should come within 10 to 15 seconds, authorising you to be outdoors for a maximum of three hours from the time the permission is granted. We understand there have been initial glitches with the SMS system and it may be discontinued. If no SMS response is received, you should fill out and sign one of the printed forms before you go outside.

The fine for not following the above rules is €150.

Northern part of Cyprus

On 22 March the administration in the north imposed a partial curfew until 6 April. Only essential businesses will remain open during this time, and people will only be able to leave their houses to fulfil their basic needs, such as shopping and accessing essential services. They should return to their residences as soon as their needs have been met and should not go outside for other purposes.

Exemptions to the above rules only apply to private sector personnel who are permitted to work towards addressing basic needs, and public sector personnel who provide crucial services (police, fire department, municipalities, civil defence, district offices etc.).

According to local legislation, anyone violating the partial curfew will be subject to criminal prosecution.

Thanks as always.

Best regards,

Louise

British High Commission | Alexander Pallis Street | Po Box 21978 | Nicosia | 1587

Tel: +357 22861100 |Fax: +357 22861200| nicosia.consular@fco.gov.uk 

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