Cyprus says it won’t waive quarantine requirement for Israeli tourists

UK also leaves Israel off list of countries from where visitors will be exempt from having to self-isolate starting July 10, amid continued surge in numbers in Jewish state

Sunbathers sit on an empty stretch of 'Landa' beach at the Cyprus seaside resort of Ayia Napa, a favorite among tourists, May 10 2020. (Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Sunbathers sit on an empty stretch of 'Landa' beach at the Cyprus seaside resort of Ayia Napa, a favorite among tourists, May 10 2020. (Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Cyprus on Friday said Israeli tourists will not be exempt from a quarantine requirement when visiting the Mediterranean island country amid a spike in new coronavirus cases in the Jewish state.

Israel was left off a list of countries from where restrictions on travel to EU-member states were lifted this week. The list, however, was a recommendation, with individual countries allowed to decide how to proceed.

“Israel was not included in the list of 15 countries deemed safe by the European Union to allow entry, so there is no question that tourists will be coming from Israel,” Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou told reporters during a cabinet meeting.

The EU member state had been banking on Israeli tourists to revive its battered tourism sector, as it was considered low risk when Cyprus airports reopened in June. Israel has since seen a surge in COVID-19 infections and on Friday morning recorded the highest number of new cases in a single-day period since the start of the pandemic.

Cyprus’ Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou leaves his office after a press conference in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, March 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Besides Israel, Ioannou said travelers from Russia must continue to self-isolate for 14 days if they travel to Cyprus. Russia and Israel are the island’s second and third-biggest tourist markets.

“Unfortunately, this year everything is fluid, as the (COVID-19) situation is constantly changing,” said Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios.

Cyprus is marketing itself as a relatively safe holiday destination in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, with a transmission rate of below one.

It allows tourists from 22 countries, including Germany, Greece and Austria, that are considered low risk to enter without a COVID-19 health certificate.

Another band of 13 Category B countries, including France and Spain, have only been allowed entry with proof they have tested negative up to 72 hours before arrival.

Arrivals from countries not on the approved lists must self-isolate for 14 days in Cyprus.

Cyprus decided Friday that Britain, its largest market, will be classified as a Category B country on August 1, with British tourists allowed to visit if the UK’s coronavirus outbreak remains on a downward trend.

Britain itself is also opening up to travel, announcing Friday that it will scrap a requirement for people arriving from dozens of countries to spend 14 days in isolation. Starting July 10, the quarantine will be lifted for arrivals from about 60 countries deemed “lower risk” for the coronavirus, including France, Spain, Germany and Italy — but not Israel and the United States, the world’s worst-hit country from COVID-19.

People enjoy a drink at Gabriel’s Wharf beside the River Thames in London on July 3, 2020. (Tolga Akmen/AFP)

On Saturday, Britain will take its biggest step yet out of lockdown with the reopening in England of restaurants, pubs and hairdressers, along with secular and sacred venues including cinemas and churches.

For isolation-weary Britons and cash-starved businesses, relief at easing the three-month lockdown is mixed with trepidation. Britain has the highest COVID-19 toll in Europe, with almost 44,000 confirmed deaths, and scientists say the coronavirus is still on the loose. The Office for National Statistics estimates there are 25,000 new infections a week in England. Even the usually ebullient Prime Minister Borish Johnson said this week that the virus was “ still circling like a shark in the water.”

“My message is for people to enjoy summer sensibly and make sure it all works,” Johnson told LBC radio on Friday. “Let’s not blow it.”

Caught between public health fears and a staggering economy, the British government has seemed uncertain whether to encourage people to go out or stay home. On Wednesday, the Treasury tweeted a message urging people to “grab a drink and raise a glass” to pubs reopening — then deleted it after a shower of criticism.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London on July 1, 2020.˜(Ben Stansall/AFP)

Johnson has said he wants people to enjoy themselves, and plans to have a pint and get his shaggy blond locks trimmed this weekend.

He has also — belatedly, say critics — struck a more cautious note.

“Do not undo the sacrifices you have made with reckless behavior,” Johnson told the Evening Standard newspaper.

Johnson is due to hold a news conference Friday afternoon before what the media has dubbed “Super Saturday.”

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