Govt moves on allowing ‘home quarantine'
Taken from this week's issue
By GÜLDEREN ÖZTANSU
WORK is under way to allow “home quarantine”, Health Minister Ünal Üstel announced this week.
The government is in talks with mobile phone operators Turkcell and Telsim to set up a new system that will enable Covid-19 contacts to self-isolate at home rather than in pandemic hotels and centres, Mr Üstel said in a TV interview.
An electronic tagging pilot for passengers arriving at Ercan airport, launched last year by Mr Üstel’s predecessor Ali Pilli, had to be abandoned due to technical problems.
Mr Üstel said that he was considering home quarantine because Covid-19 contacts were “hiding themselves” to avoid having to stay at a quarantine centre.
On Friday Mr Üstel explained that mobile operator “partners” made a presentation at the Health Ministry and that “the final form of the project will be presented” in the coming days followed by a “trial run for those who have chronic health problems and those with children under 10”.
Regulation of the scheme will be carried out by local authorities, the police and Health Ministry officials.
“If residents under home quarantine step outside their garden outlined on the map made by the relevant company, we will immediately know and intervene,” Mr Üstel said.
“They will, with the protocols that will be signed with the Law Bureau, be fined five times the [monthly] minimum wage or imprisoned.”
In addition agreements will be made with organisations such the Cyprus Turkish Medical Association and private hospitals so that those under home quarantine will have access to medical care, Mr Üstel added.
On PCR testing, Mr Üstel said that the daily test capacity will be “raised to 15,000”, around double the current capacity
“There is an order in place for rapid antigen tests, which will arrive on Monday at the latest, if there is no issue with the planes”, the Minister also said.
Test kits for coronavirus variants will be provided by Turkey so that any new outbreak can be identified and brought under control more quickly.
“We have spoken to attachés in İstanbul and Ankara to arrange the delivery of these kits,” Mr Üstel said. “So much time is wasted in sending samples to Turkey for variant analysis.”
The increased “control mechanisms” will provide “enough space to protect public health while simultaneously meeting the needs of the economy”.
Mr Üstel added that “more sectors will be opened within the framework of a gradual opening”. The Council of Ministers was yesterday meeting to re-evaluate the current Covid-19 measures. At the time of going to print no announcement had been made. Under decisions announced last weekend by the Communicable Diseases High Committee only places such as supermarkets, butchers, chemists, bakeries, petrol stations, open-air markets and takeaways will be open today. Tomorrow only chemists, bakeries and petrol stations will be open.
In the week’s other Covid-related developments:
- Turkey sent another 20,000 Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines by air ambulance on Thursday
- 1,170 Pfizer/BioNTech and 2,400 AstraZeneca vaccines were received from the EU via South Cyprus at the Metehan checkpoint yesterday
- The Health Ministry has started making some of its announcements available in English
- The government will announce a revised vaccination programme on Monday, including a “digital system”
- Vaccines are due to be completed by May rather than the end of March
- An 84-year-old Covid patient died on Wednesday, bringing the death toll since the start of the pandemic to 24
- A member of staff at the Health Ministry tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday.
“There are 8,000 patients with chronic health conditions and over-65s who have not been vaccinated yet,” Mr Üstel said.
“The new vaccines will be used for this group and for the completion of their second doses. Once chronic patients from all ages and all over-65s have been vaccinated then we will start vaccinating lower ages, and sectors according to the risk factor.”
Meanwhile Greek Cypriot tourism chiefs announced yesterday that vaccinated tourists from the UK will be welcomed to South Cyprus from May 1 onwards provided that they have had two doses of Covid-19 vaccine at least seven days before travelling.
A BBC report said, however, that this is more than two weeks before the earliest date those in England will be able to go abroad for holidays and that Greek Cypriot officials have not yet said how British tourists will be able to prove they have had both vaccine doses.