The Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) has banned travel from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Netherlands, and South Africa after authorities in the four countries detected a more infectious variant of the coronavirus.
The TRNC Ministry of Health, on advice from the Contagious Diseases Executive Committee, decided on Tuesday to impose a ban on the four countries in order “to protect public health” in North Cyprus.
Anyone who has been in the UK, Denmark, Netherlands, and South Africa in the last 14 days cannot enter the TRNC. The exception are TRNC citizens, who are permitted to enter with a negative PCR test and will then be placed in quarantine at a government-approved centre for 14 days.
The new entry rules come into force immediately.
No details are given about whether international students or foreigners with residency permits can also enter the TRNC at this time, or what the new cost of the 14-day quarantine will be.
TRNC Health Ministry failing foreign nationals by constantly changing entry rules
The announcement on Tuesday is the 36thrule change for those entering the TRNC since the coronavirus pandemic came to international prominence in March of this year. It contrasts markedly with neighbouring Turkey, which has only issued six entry notices in the same period.
The TRNC Health Ministry is prone to knee-jerk reactions, often arising from public pressure, resulting in constant changes that often lack detail and are implemented with little notice, leaving travellers confused and stranded abroad.
Despite previous requests, government officials are still failing to consult or communicate with key stakeholders, including international residents and student bodies in the TRNC, and Turkish Cypriot diaspora representatives before making announcements.
The problems are compounded by a lack of information on TRNC government websites. There has been nothing in English on the Health Ministry website for months, and the travel advice in Turkish is limited to the latest rules – which at the time of writing had not been updated to include the 22 December announcement.
There are no details on the TRNC Foreign Ministry or its overseas embassy websites, nor are there any details about quarantine costs on these websites or the TRNC Finance Ministry, which receives the payments.
The sudden and incomplete announcements have meant passengers are regularly caught out, and if they are unable to fulfil the new rules, they are increasingly prevented from boarding their flight.
This can add significant cost to passengers, who not only need to pay for a new air ticket, but also often find their PCR test has expired and they require a new one before travelling to the TRNC. And, with just two flights a day from Istanbul to Ercan Airport in North Cyprus, many need to book into a hotel overnight.
Police were called to the gate for a Turkish Airlines flight to Ercan in the early hours of Friday 18 December after numerous passengers were denied boarding for failing to show proof of advance payment for 10 days quarantine in the TRNC, even though that information had not been published on any official government website or social media page.
Quarantine payment can only be made by bank transfer – no cash or card payments are permitted by the TRNC Finance Ministry – leaving foreign travellers vulnerable, as they are unable to make a transaction just before a late night flight when banks are closed.
One African student, whose fiancé was similarly caught out and forced to miss her Ercan flight on Saturday morning called the situation “disgraceful”.
Main image, top, of plane in sky with barrier tape , Photo © sergei_stock1977 / Freepik