The Council of Ministers in Cyprus has decided to beef up checks at crossing points in the so-called Green Line dividing the eastern Mediterranean island into Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot zones as an additional measure to guard against the spread of the coronavirus, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said.
Ioannou said the ministers also decided to use government-owned summer houses on top of the highest mountain peak at 2,000 meters to quarantine people suspected of being carriers of the coronavirus.
The houses are spread over a large area of the mountain range and are mostly isolated from each other.
He said that President Nicos Anastasiades also offered part of his summer residence as accommodation for quarantine.
“This gesture by the president conveys a message to communities, which objected to the use of facilities near their villages for the isolation of suspected cases. It is an example to follow,” the minister said.
Ioannou said that additional policemen were being posted immediately at crossing points, where paramedics will check people entering Cyprus from the Turkish-controlled zone.
“Because of the workload, staff at the crossings will be boosted. It has been decided to post more people there to avert the possibility of a mistake, especially at crossing points with a lot of traffic,” he said.
The minister added that services will be procured from the private sector to staff the crossing points with nurses.
Authorities in the Turkish Cypriot part of Cyprus said that an Iranian woman who returned from her country had tested negative, but had been isolated.
The minister said that one Greek Cypriot woman who came into contact with a confirmed case in Italy and two other women associated with her tested negative to the virus on Wednesday night, but will remain confined as a precaution.
Ioannou sought to pacify the public, saying that the measures applied are among the strictest in the world.
He said that about 130 passengers who flew in Wednesday night from Milan to Larnaca airport went through a different gate to a specially designed area and then were evaluated by doctors and filled in a questionnaire as to their movements in Italy.
“No one had symptoms and the gate was disinfected,” he said.
“There is worry but there shouldn’t be panic. We are taking all necessary measures, the virus might appear in Cyprus, but we are taking all the measures to minimize the probability. We can’t eliminate it and this should be understood by everyone,” he said.
He spoke shortly after Greece had reported two new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases there to three.
Thousands of people commute daily between Cyprus and Greece.
One big worry for the authorities is the big carnival procession which is scheduled to take place in the southern city of Limassol on Sunday and where up to 50,000 people are expected to participate.