CYPRUS NEWS

Tatar tells Raab two-state solution ‘realistic and fair’

Dominic Raab with Ersin Tatar

LONDON, Feb. 4, 2021: Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar on Thursday conveyed to the British government that his side will be going into the five-way summit on Cyprus with a two-state mindset, an arrangement he called “realistic” and “fair.” Tatar met with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who crossed over to the north after earlier meeting with the Greek Cypriot leadership. Raab’s visit comes ahead of a 5+1 summit on Cyprus scheduled for March, and in which the UK will participate as one of the island’s guarantor powers.

Speaking to the media, Tatar said he explained to Raab that at the March conference he will present his vision for “a fair, realistic and viable solution” attained through a two-state partnership where the constituent states are equally sovereign and enjoy equal international status. The Turkish Cypriot leader said he looked forward to a “win-win” deal contributing to regional stability. He gave an account to the UK official about “missed opportunities” in Cyprus, and the “injustices” perpetrated on Turkish Cypriots whom he called one of the two “founding nations” of the Republic of Cyprus established in 1960. Asked whether Raab had indicated where his government leans on the Cyprus issue, Tatar said only that “Britain is exploring these matters.

“He [Raab] and his team are studying the issue at great length. Besides, they are a guarantor power, they too have responsibilities.” On Brexit, Tatar said it can create prospects for the north’s relations with Britain, such as direct trade and direct flights. The Turkish Cypriot leader also pointed out to Raab that the north expects its “share” of the doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine expected to be delivered to the Republic this month.  He pointed out to Raab that the approximately 10,000 British nationals living in the north are wanting to be inoculated.

Coronavirus: Cyprus braces for harsher restrictions

Plenty of people out and about in Nicosia's Eleftheria Square on Thursday. It will probably be weeks before people can stroll around downtown again (CNA). By Elias Hazou

NICOSIA, Jan 8, 2021 (Cyprus Mail): A three-week ‘lockdown lite’ seems the likeliest scenario today when the government announces extra curbs on movement – including a return to the SMS system –aiming to contain the spread of the coronavirus and give straining hospitals some breathing space. As of Thursday evening, there were 196 people hospitalised, very close to the current 200-bed capacity reserved for Covid-19 patients. By early next week Larnaca general hospital should be ready to allocate 40 beds in a dedicated coronavirus ward, while talks are underway for Paphos general hospital to set aside some 30 beds.

The expanded capacity for Covid-19 patients will no doubt be needed, as admissions are expected to keep rising in the next couple of weeks, said Pambos Charilaou, spokesman for the state health services organization (Okypy). Given the trend in cases in recent weeks, and the lag between a positive Covid-19 diagnosis and the onset of symptoms, the next two to three weeks will likely see an uptick in net hospitalisations. This, Charilaou stressed, will occur regardless of a ‘lockdown’. Assuming the ‘lockdown’ lasts for three weeks – as widely reported – it would have an impact on hospital admissions after that timeframe.

“The coming additional measures will at least give hospitals some breathing room going forward,” he told the Cyprus Mail. This appears to be the objective of the restrictions, going on comments made by members of the team of scientists advising the government. Zoi-Dorothea Pana, who sits on the advisory team, told the state broadcaster on Thursday that the additional restrictions won’t be as severe as those enforced in March – in terms of content or duration. She said that because the viral load is high in Cyprus, one shouldn’t expect two to three weeks of tightened controls on movement to make a tremendous difference in cases.

Petros Karayiannis, Professor of Microbiology/Molecular Virology at the University of Nicosia Medical School who is another member of the scientific advisory team, told local media that although the positivity rate appears to be stabilising, cases in absolute terms are still high. The goal is therefore to contain the spread so as to decongest hospitals, although that would not happen straight away once the new measures come in. By Thursday evening, 196 people were being treated for Covid-19 in hospitals – a net increase of nine patients from 24 hours earlier. Forty-nine of the patients were in a serious condition, of whom 26 were intubated.

Based on the scientists’ advice, the government is expected to shutter all schools for three weeks; but kindergartens and nurseries could remain open. Retail trade will be shut down, with certain exceptions: pharmacies, gas stations, kiosks and mini markets, supermarkets, grocery stores, butchers, fishmongers, bakeries, confectioneries, fruit markets and liquor stores. Restaurants and bars would likely be allowed to operate for home deliveries only. As far as hairdressers and beauty salons go, media speculated they would likely be ordered shut. Working from home will be enforced throughout the public sector, while offices normally servicing the public will stop doing that and operate with skeleton staff.

The restrictions on travel between districts – except for certain cases – will stay in place. A night-time curfew, already in force from 9pm to 5am, will likewise continue – although whether the times are changed remains to be seen. There could also be a return to the system – implemented during the lockdown last spring – where people need permission from authorities to leave their home. Kyriakos Kokkinos, Deputy minister for Research, Innovation and Digital Policy, told Kathimerini newspaper that they are ready – if need be – to reactivate the same SMS system used last March.

Those wanting to venture outside will send an SMS to a number and await a response approving or denying their request. The reasons for going outside will probably be the same as last spring – doctor visits, shopping for essentials, helping out people in need – with the probable addition of a request to undergo a rapid test. The question on many people’s minds is how many outings will be allowed per day; press reports spoke of two or more. Citing its sources, daily Politis said the new SMS regime would begin on midnight on Sunday.The government was initially expected to announce the new restrictions on Thursday but postponed it to Friday to give the finance and labour ministries time to tweak the various support schemes for businesses.

Have Yourselves A Merry Little Christmas: PM Johnson Says

LONDON, Dec 17, 2020:: Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that people should plan only for a “merry little Christmas” and exercise extreme caution but he refused to outlaw festive family gatherings as COVID-19 cases soared across swathes of Britain. After imposing the most onerous restrictions in Britain’s peacetime history, Johnson is now keen to avoid becoming the first leader since Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century to cancel Christmas, even though the United Kingdom has the sixth worst official COVID-19 death toll in the world. Hours after pubs and restaurants were forced to close again in London and some other areas to tackle a worsening outbreak, Johnson said plans to ease restrictions for five days from Dec. 23 would go ahead but urged people to be careful.

“It would not be right, we think, to criminalise people who have made plans and simply want to spend time with their loved ones,” Johnson told reporters at a Downing Street briefing, adding that a smaller Christmas would be a safer Christmas. “Have yourselves a merry little Christmas,” Johnson said, using the title of the popular jingle sung by Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM musical “Meet Me in St Louis”, and later recorded by stars such as Frank Sinatra, Doris Day and Michael Buble. Johnson’s plans to relax restrictions for five days so three households can mix have been criticised by two influential medical journals.

Medical views are mixed on whether or not Christmas should be cancelled. There is also growing concern among, for example, oncologists that many cancers are going undiagnosed due to the public health focus on COVID-19. COVID-19 has battered the United Kingdom: The government’s most conservative death toll measure is 65,520, second only to Italy in Europe, while government borrowing is set to hit a peacetime high of 394 billion pounds ($531 billion) in 2020/21. Official data showed another 25,161 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, up more than a third from a day earlier, and the highest level since mid-November, with another 612 deaths.

One cabinet minister suggested people should make up their own minds about what precautions to take, and said some may want to wait for Easter to gather with their family, given the risk to the elderly and other vulnerable groups. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said it was not for government to tell people exactly how to behave. “Easter can be the new Christmas for some people,” he said. The leaders of Scotland and Wales, which set their own often-stricter rules, urged people to show restraint. Wales also toughened general restrictions further. The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has raised hopes that some semblance of normal life could return in 2021, though some families say they will meet up for Christmas regardless of what the government decrees.

A total of 137,897 people have been vaccinated in the past week, Nadhim Zahawi, the minister in charge of vaccine deployment, said on Wednesday. But as cases soared across the south of England, London went into the highest tier of lockdown from midnight. Large parts of northern England have spent months living with the toughest restrictions. The highest tier means that pubs and restaurants are closed, but shops are not. Still, revellers partied into the night in central London’s Soho district ahead of the restrictions. One woman waved purple burlesque feather fans while dozens cheered with beers and some sang karaoke in the streets for one last blast of revelry.

Few people wore masks or observed social-distancing guidelines. Police were booed when they told people to disperse. Some pubs and bars – one displaying a sign “Save Soho to help save livelihoods” – put on cut-price drinks to shift stock before they closed. From Wednesday they are only allowed to serve takeaways. Landlords and owners have complained that they risk going out of business without the Christmas trade.