The Health Ministry of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) has confirmed the country’s borders are to remain open, and the existing system of risk categories are to remain in place.
In a written statement issued late last night, Sunday 5 July, the Health Ministry set out the updated entry and exit arrangements for those crossing the land border with South Cyprus. The three country risk categories have been maintained and revised to reflect the current data on infection rates, while entry criteria rules have been tightened, as has enforcement, with penalties for those who fail to adhere to self-isolation.
The government has come under huge pressure from some quarters of the Turkish Cypriot public to close the borders and allow limited entry to the TRNC.
A Facebook group called Karantinasız Girişlere Hayır [KGH, ‘No to Entry Without Quarantine’], created on 30 June, has already attracted over 10,000 members. KGH calls for compulsory quarantine for new arrivals from high-risk countries received extensive media coverage and generated widespread public sympathy.
The group’s online mission states: “While the [coronavirus] Covid 19 pandemic continues around the world, we demand 14 days mandatory quarantine for arrivals from countries where the number of daily infection cases is high, or where WHO [World Health Organisation] or international sources say they are in the high risk group.”
Their campaign demands were further aided by the fact that within four days of opening its borders to international visitors, the number of new coronavirus cases in North Cyprus went from zero to five. Video evidence showing those from Category B countries who should self-isolate were ignoring the rules, including one gentleman from Turkey heading to a barbershop in Dereboyu, in the capital Lefkoşa, further inflamed public opinion.
Prime Minister Ersin Tatar called an urgent Council of Ministers meeting on Sunday to try and address public concerns. However, confusion reigned after the government issued a poorly worded statement on Sunday afternoon announcing previous Council of Ministers decrees governing entry into the TRNC were being annulled, and that full authority for border admissions was being handed back to the Health Minister Dr Ali Pilli under the country’s Contagious Diseases Law.
Rumours started to circulate that Dr Pilli (pictured top) was going to close the borders and put the country back into full lockdown. His Ministry’s announcement on Sunday night has managed to quell those rumours, while offer greater clarity on TRNC admission rules.
TRNC rules for crossing the Green Line border between North and South Cyprus
Effective immediately, the Health Ministry has stated that for those wishing to use the South Cyprus land border to access the TRNC are subjected to the following rules:
- TRNC citizens working or studying in South Cyprus, and Greek Cypriots residing in the Karpaz region and Maronites in the TRNC, can cross the border freely as long as they provide a negative PCR test done 72 hours before crossing the border, and can prove their status. They can cross back into the TRNC without the need for quarantine, but if they are regularly crossing the border, they must take a PCR test every 15 days.
- TRNC citizens and non-citizens are permitted to cross from South Cyprus into the North, but they must provide a negative PCR test, done 72 hours before crossing the border. Those who have been in South Cyprus for 14 days or more, will still have to do 14 days quarantine in North Cyprus. Those who are entering North Cyprus from the southern part of the island having travelled from another country will be governed by the entry conditions of that initial country.
The Health Ministry also updated its coronavirus Country Risk Categories and rules governing the entry for each group. This is also effective immediately and applicable to all new arrivals, irrespective of which land border, or sea port or airport they use to enter the TRNC:
Category A Conditions
There is no quarantine for passengers from this group. However, they must have a formal certificate showing a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before their travel.
Those unable to present the right documentation will be allowed entry into the TRNC and the PCR test be carried out by TRNC health officials. The passenger(s) will be “kept under quarantine until the results are released, and the test and quarantine fees will be covered by the relevant passenger.”
Category B Conditions
There is no quarantine for passengers from this group either. However, they must have a formal certificate from their own country showing a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before their travel, else they will not be permitted to travel to the TRNC.
On arrival to the TRNC, passengers from these countries will also be subject to a second PCR test by Turkish Cypriot health officials. Self-isolation is “mandatory”, with new arrivals staying at the TRNC address they provide border officials until the results are known.
Those with prior hotel reservations will be transferred to their accommodation by hotel staff, who will be responsible for enforcing their guests’ self-isolation. Those who are staying in private residences must also self-isolate at home until their PCR tests are known and notified to them.
Those found in breach of these rules will be prosecuted, under “the relevant articles of the Criminal Code and the Contagious Diseases Law.”
The Health Ministry said its own staff and the police will be helping to enforce these rules.
Category C Conditions
Passengers travelling from this group of countries will be admitted providing they present a negative PCR test, taken within 72 hours before their travel. They will be required to undertake 14-day quarantine at a centre of the government’s choosing. In accordance with previous Council of Ministers’ decrees, this will be at cost to the passenger.
TRNC List of Countries and their Coronavirus Risk Categories
The TRNC Health Ministry also updated its list of coronavirus risk categories for countries on 5 July 2020. The three revised groups are:
Category A Countries
- New Zealand
- South Korea
Category B Countries
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
- San Marino
- United Arab Emirates
Category C Countries
- United Kingdom
- And Other Countries
Main image, top, of TRNC Health Minister Dr Ali Pilli at desk in Ministry, 24 May 2020. Photo © Facebook / KKTC Sağlık Bakanlığı