Cyprus to pay medical bill if tourists catch virus

Cyprus hopes to attract tourists after its coronavirus lockdown by paying the medical costs of anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 while holidaying on the island, officials said Wednesday.

The plan was outlined in a letter to tour operators and airlines detailing the measures Cyprus is taking to ensure the safety of its tourism sector.

The letter was made public Wednesday and signed by the ministers of foreign affairs, transport, and tourism.

The Mediterranean island is marketing itself as a safe holiday destination during the global pandemic.

The Republic of Cyprus has reported 939 novel coronavirus cases and only 17 deaths.

The government said it is “committed to taking care of all travellers who test positive during their stay, as well as their families and close contacts”.

It pledged to cover accommodation, dining and medical care if a tourist falls ill with the virus.

The “traveller will only need to bear the cost of their airport transfer and repatriation flight,” it said.

‘Quarantine hotels’

A 100-bed hospital will be available exclusively for tourists who test positive, with more beds available “at very short notice if required”.

An additional 112 beds in intensive care units with 200 respirators will be reserved for critically ill patients.

Designated “quarantine hotels” will have 500 rooms available for family members and close contacts of patients.

Other hotels on the island will be allowed to remain open if a guest tests positive, but their room will “undergo a deep clean”.

Authorities have forecast a 70 percent decline in tourist arrivals in 2020.

Tourism earned Cyprus €2.68 billion ($2.94 bn) in 2019 — about 15 percent of gross domestic product — down one percent from the previous year, which was bolstered by a record 3.97 million arrivals.

Cyprus plans to reopen its airports on June 9 to arrivals from 13 countries considered low risk.

These include Israel, Greece, Germany, Austria and Malta but the island’s two biggest markets Britain and Russia are not on the approved list.

Those arriving between June 9–19 will need to provide a health certificate proving they do not have the virus.

That requirement will be dropped from June 20, when another six countries will be added to the approved list, including Switzerland and Poland.

Cyprus says it will update the list of approved countries on a weekly basis based on scientific advice.

Officials will administer temperature checks and free random testing of arrivals.

Having tested over 10 percent of its population, Cyprus says it has one of the lowest coronavirus infection rates in Europe.

“Very few countries worldwide, especially in the Mediterranean, can boast about such statistics,” the letter said.

Reporting and photo: AFP

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