Visitors from Turkey will now need to have two PCR tests done, before they travel and again when they arrive in Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC). It follows a decision by the Turkish Cypriot government to upgrade Turkey’s coronavirus (Covid-19) category from low risk Category A to medium risk Category B.
The announcement was made following a Council of Ministers on Thursday evening, 24 June.
The development comes after intense Turkish Cypriot public pressure due to a significant increase in the daily number of new Covid-19 infections in Turkey.
Since the start of the break, a total of 193,115 cases have been recorded in Turkey, of which 165,706 people have fully recovered. The latest figures show 5,046 people have lost their lives after contracting the virus.
Turkey experienced a good downturn in Covid-19 cases since its peak in April, which led to Turkish health officials easing lockdown measures at the end of May. Since then, however, the rate of infections has seen a sharp increase.
From June 11 to June 13, the number of new cases jumped from 987 in a day to 1,459 – marking a near 50% increase in just two days. Incidence levels have remained stable since then, with 1,492 new infections reported on 23 June.
The upturn has made Turkish Cypriots nervous, fearing that after more than two months of being coronavirus-free, the country could be exposed to new coronavirus risks from their large neighbour when North Cyprus opens itself up to international visitors on 1 July.
Most of the TRNC’s annual four million visitors arrive from Turkey, prompting opposition parties and healthcare professionals joining members of the Turkish Cypriot public in demanding an urgent review of Turkey’s risk category.
The TRNC government decision to move Turkey to Category B places it alongside countries such as Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Switzerland. Visitors from these countries require a negative PCR test within 72 hours before travelling to North Cyprus and a second negative PCR test on arrival.
Those travelling in the low risk Category A, such as Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Israel, and Malta, need only show one negative PCR test 72 hours before they set off for the TRNC.
Category C – the highest risk category – includes the United Kingdom, the United States, Iran, Russia, and Brazil, which have all recorded high coronavirus death and infection rates.
From 1 July, visitors from these countries will be admitted too, but only if they show a negative PCR test 72 hours before travelling. On arrival to North Cyprus, it is mandatory for Category C visitors to be quarantined for 14 days, which they must pay for themselves at a cost of 4,400 TL (£510) per person.
Due to the UK’s decreasing infection rate, the Turkish Cypriot Diaspora is also pressing for the UK to be moved from Category C to B.
For the past few weeks, the UK’s coronavirus reproduction level has remained below 1 (0.7 to 0.9), meaning the number of new infections has dropped too, with 923 cases reported on 23 June. As a result, the government reduced the UK’s Covid-19 alert level down from 4 to 3 last week (the highest level being 5).