South Cyprus under fire for discriminatory vaccination policy

The Greek Cypriot authorities have come under fire for implementing a discriminatory policy on the COVID-19 vaccines that are due to be delivered to the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) this week.

Turkish Cypriots are set to receive two thousand Pfizer BioNTech vaccines sent by the European Union (EU) via South Cyprus, but accusations of discrimination have been levelled at Greek Cypriot officials after they tried to limit who could receive them.

According to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), vaccines which arrive via the South will only be available to Turkish Cypriots who are also citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, and enrolled in Gesy, the South’s universal healthcare system.

These requirements disqualify many Turkish Cypriots from being able to receive the vaccine, as well as many other non-Cypriots who are resident in North Cyprus.

The Greek Cypriot government has been criticised for its ‘discriminatory and paternalistic’ attitude towards Turkish Cypriots.

Berna Çelik Doğruyol, spokeswoman for TRNC President Ersin Tatar, accused the Greek Cypriots of “creating bureaucratic difficulties.” She also remarked that they should leave behind their “domineering mentality and political ambitions” in order to prioritise human health.

Tatar clarifies EU vaccine comments

The news comes amid a turbulent seven days for Cyprus and the vaccine, with Ersin Tatar also facing heavy criticism after he said that he would not accept Pfizer BioNTech vaccines unless they were delivered directly from the European Union, rather than via the Greek Cypriot side.

CTP (Republican Turkish Party) leader Tufan Erhürman and HP (People’s Party) leader Kudret Özersay were both critical of Tatar’s comments, calling him out for “politicising the vaccination process”.

President Ersin Tatar receiving the Sinovac vaccination, 15 Jan 2021


The Turkish Cypriot President later clarified via his spokeswoman that the plan for vaccine distribution had been prepared in close consultation with officials from the EU, and that he had made a request to the United Nations to ensure that the vaccines are delivered to the North as soon as possible.

Sinovac vaccinations begin in North Cyprus

Following receipt of 20,000 Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines from Turkey, North Cyprus began administering vaccines on Friday morning.

President Tatar was the first to be vaccinated at the new Pandemic Hospital in Göçmenköy, Nicosia, quickly followed by Prime Minister Ersan Saner and Health Minister Dr. Ali Pilli.

Following his vaccination, President Tatar made a statement thanking Turkey for “not forgetting” North Cyprus in delivering 20,000 vaccines. He also urged citizens to get vaccinated “as soon as possible”.

Health workers are being prioritised in the TRNC Covid-19 vaccination programme, with the elderly and other groups to follow afterwards.

The government hopes to begin allowing tourists to visit the country as early as April.


Main image, top, of syringes, needles and Covid-19 vaccine, photo © user7350813 / freepik