TRNC government lowers UK Covid-19 risk to Category B, swapping quarantine for self-isolation

The Health Ministry for the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) has announced that those travelling from the UK will no longer have to do quarantine in a government-approved quarantine centre.

New arrivals from Britain will instead be able to self-isolate at home for seven days, providing they test negative for coronavirus in advance of travelling and again when they arrive in North Cyprus. They are also forbidden from receiving guests during their period of self-isolation. Those who break the rules will be transferred to a government-approved quarantine centre.

The changes will take effect from Thursday, 13 August.

The decision, taken earlier today by the TRNC’s Contagious Diseases Committee, will be welcome relief for UK Turkish Cypriots and British permanent and part-time residents of North Cyprus.

For weeks, they have for been lobbying the TRNC authorities to change the UK’s coronavirus risk category to be on a par with that of Turkey.

The UK was initially regarded as “high risk” due to the failure of Boris Johnson’s government to take adequate precautions when the pandemic first broke. As a result, Britain had one of the highest incidents of Covid-19 deaths and infection rates. However, fatalities from the virus have dropped significantly over these past six weeks, as have infection rates.

In contrast, Turkey’s infection rates have been running at nearly double that of the UK’s in June and July, and yet the TRNC Health Ministry has consistently placed Turkey in Category B.

A compromise position in mid-July led to quarantine time for for UK visitors being halved from 14 to seven days, but that too was challenged.

After an absence of two months, there has been a significant spike in TRNC coronavirus cases since the borders re-opened on 1 July. A total of 63 new infections have been recorded, the vast majority of people from Turkey.

TRNC Health Minister Dr Ali Pilli’s reluctance to increase Turkey’s risk category to Category C, or lower the UK’s to Category B led to strong criticism from Britain, home of the second largest Turkish Cypriot diaspora.

One East London Turkish Cypriot, angry at the “discrimination” the UK faced, compared it to being treated like “lepers” (Letters, Why are you treating us like lepers, TRNC?, 25 July 2020).

Days after this letter went viral, the TRNC Prime Minister lent vocal support for the need to drop the quarantine requirement for the UK.

Over the weekend, rumours that this was going to happen started to circulate after the Health Ministry indicated on its website that it was looking favourably towards changing the UK’s risk category.

TRNC Health Ministry announces the changes to the UK’s coronavirus risk category on its Facebook page