Anger as evidence emerges of TRNC casinos flouting Covid rules by hosting New Year’s Eve parties

Locals and foreign residents have taken to social media to condemn hotels in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus for openly flouting coronavirus rules on New Year’s Eve.

Two Girne hotels, Lord’s Palace and Les Ambassadeurs, were among those named and shamed by the TRNC public for allegedly hosting parties to see in the New Year.

Videos of their parties were posted on social media over the weekend, which show guests and staff failing to wear masks or observe social distancing rules, as they drank and danced around festive decorations. Guests can also be seen playing at gaming machines in the background.

The hotels’ actions contravened the strict Covid restrictions laid down by the TRNC Health Ministry and the Contagious Diseases Higher Council, which essentially cancelled New Year’s Eve celebrations. Public events were banned, and everyone was required to remain at home for New Year’s Eve with no more than ten people allowed to be present at the gathering.

For the past fortnight cafes and restaurants could not remain open beyond 9pm, while bars and other entertainment venues were ordered to close entirely.

Despite a list of entertainment venues and leisure activities being expressly barred from opening, casinos were conspicuous in their absence from the directives issued by the Health Ministry in the past few weeks.

Clips of TRNC hotels & casinos flouting Covid rules to host NYE parties

The Covid restrictions were tightened last week in a bid to curb the persistently high number of local people being infected with Covid-19, which claimed the life of a pensioner on Friday.

Aged 77, Sevim Sakinsel had underlying health conditions and died in intensive care at Lefkoşa Dr. Burhan Nalbantoğlu State Hospital. Her death brings the total number of coronavirus fatalities in North Cyprus to eight.

Selma Eylem, who heads the KTOES teachers union, had stinging words of rebuke for the government over their lax attitude to the hotels that breached the rules.

She claimed the UBP-DP-YDP government decrees had “dragged tradesmen, and small and medium enterprises to the brink of bankruptcy, sentenced labourers and workers to starvation, imprisoned the public in their homes, and imposed a ban on the gathering of more than 10 people,” yet the coalition government’s decisions, “excluded New Year celebrations in the hotels of casino and mafia barons.”

Sevim Sakinsel, the TRNC’s 8th Covid victim. Photo via Diyalog Gazetesi

The public were equally scathing in their comments. Neslihan Meryem Koruk wrote: “It totally disregards our lives, it is a betrayal of so many health workers. It is a betrayal of the people by the state. Shame on you.”

“The decisions taken by the Right Honourable Ali Pilli are only valid for the normal public. As with everything else, it does not affect the casinos, it is only applicable for ordinary people,” wrote Çağın Sakinoğlu.

Imren Aytaç criticised the behaviour of guests and staff: “No masks or social distancing. They are committing a crime, endangering everyone’s lives.”

Ian Chennell was one of hundreds of foreign residents in the TRNC who also aired their outrage at the blatant flouting of the rules by the casinos.

The British expat’s critical post of the casinos on the WTF Northern Cyprus Facebook group has been widely shared on social media:

“To say that I’m angry is an understatement,” he wrote, before continuing, “There are those of us, the majority of us that have behaved responsibly and in accordance with the ever changing requirements of the law vis a vis the Covid 19 pandemic and then there are those that have not!

“In direct defiance of the restrictions imposed, Facebook is full of video footage from our North Cyprus hotel casinos on New Year’s Eve. Never mind the restriction of ten persons together, there were literally hundreds of people, many without masks and with no obvious social distancing celebrating in the hotel casinos.

“Each and every one of those people will now have the opportunity to socially integrate back in the community.

“I note that no one has named these hotels, and I ask that they be named and held to be liable for their criminal negligence,” wrote Mr Chenille.

Paula Cox was another who criticised the guests and the mentality behind holding the parties: “Let’s see what the idiots think in a few days’ time when COVID cases will explode in the TRNC! It’s all about money and always will be….”

The issue was raised in the TRNC Parliament earlier today, Monday 4 January.

Health Minister Dr Ali Pilli said “it’s not our problem” when criticised over casino NYE parties

When quizzed about the TRNC hotels and casinos that had brazenly hosted New Year’s Eve parties despite the ban on large gatherings, Health Minister Dr Ali Pilli reportedly tried to shirk responsibility and according to local media, gave this bizarre response:

“We are following up with the New Year’s Eve entertainment held in a hotel, covered by the media. After all, gambling is not prohibited in this country. Is this the problem of the Minister of Health? TRNC citizens are prohibited from entering the casinos. The casino should not admit these people.

Dr Pilli continued as follows: “We imposed prohibitions so that there would be no big entertainment, so everyone went home [for New Year’s Eve]. There were not many tourists in the hotels anyway. We didn’t foresee that TRNC citizens would go to hotels and casinos. But the owners shouldn’t have admitted these people, it’s not our problem.”