In contrast to a global trend away from mandatory safety measures in the event of a pandemic, Cyprus said on Wednesday that face masks will again be in demand in indoor public settings.
The mandate, which comes into effect on Friday, applies to anyone over the age of 12, with some exceptions. It was reset due to a spike in new coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron sub-variants known as BA. 4 and BA. 5, authorities said.
This was announced by the ministry of health of the internationally recognized government, the Republic of Cyprus, which controls a large part of the Mediterranean island, with around 1 million residents. About 250,000 Cypriots live in the northern part of the breakaway island, which has been occupied by Turkey since 1974.
The health ministry has called on the public to take other precautions as well, including maintaining social distance and regular hand disinfection, to curb the further spread of the virus.
According to ministry data, 19,503 people in the republic tested positive between June 25 and July 5, with a positivity rate of 13%. The average number of new cases reported each day has more than tripled in the past two weeks, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
“The epidemiological development of recent days raises the need to review protective measures, as part of efforts to stop the spread of the virus and safeguard public health,” the ministry said in a statement.
Authorities said the mask’s mandate would be enforced with spot inspections and fines of up to 300 euros ($ 305) for offenders. The mandate does not apply in private homes, nor in private vehicles when traveling only with family members, nor when consuming food or drink. People who practice in gyms or dance schools will be exempt; so will cooks when they grill and people with diseases that make it difficult for them to wear face masks.
Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela said the situation in Cypriot hospitals is now “under control” and that there are no plans for additional measures beyond the mandate of the mask, although that could change if the situation worsens.