NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus on Friday outlined plans for the phased resumption next month of commercial flights from a select number of countries with low COVID-19 infection rates to jump-start its vital tourism sector.
The first group is comprised of Greece, Malta, Bulgaria, Norway, Austria, Finland, Slovenia, Hungary, Israel, Denmark, Germany, Slovakia and Lithuania. The second group is made up of Switzerland, Poland, Romania, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic. The list excludes the country’s two main tourism markets, former colonial ruler Britain, and Russia.
Aircraft arriving from any country not included in either group will only be permitted to carry Cypriot citizens or foreign nationals who permanently reside in Cyprus, or anyone who has been granted special permission.
These passengers will also have to obtain a health certificate three days prior to departure. They can opt to be tested in Cyprus, but will have to stay in self-isolation for one day in designated accommodation.
Karousos said hotels that have been shuttered since a strict stay-at-home order was imposed in late March, and lifted earlier this week, will open their doors on June 1.
More countries will be added to the two groups in the coming days, the minister said. Tourism officials said medical experts will assess the course of the pandemic in the U.K. and Russia before flights from those countries can begin.
Marketing its year-round sunny skies, pristine beaches and Mediterranean cuisine to entice holidaymakers, Cyprus relies heavily on tourism. The sector directly accounts for 13 percent of the east Mediterranean island nation’s gross domestic product.
Government tourism officials estimate that the country will lose 70% of the initially anticipated 2.6 billion euros ($2.83 billion) tourism-generated revenues this year. Authorities are eager to get hotels and other businesses up and running to keep unemployment numbers from spiking and to buttress a still fragile economic recovery from a 2013 financial crisis that almost bankrupted the country.
But health officials insist that the resumption of flights and the arrival of foreign travelers won’t be allowed to jeopardize Cyprus’ so-far successful handling of the pandemic. To date, Cyprus — with a population of around 880,000 — has reported 927 confirmed coronavirus infections and 17 deaths.