Cyprus limits social gatherings under Covid tsunami
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Ministers at a cabinet meeting imposed restrictions on church gatherings and home visits as Cypriots prepare to mark the Epiphany on Thursday, a key date in the Greek Orthodox religious calendar.
Home visits will be limited to 10 people -- half the number previously permitted, and not including children under 12 -- while church attendance will be restricted to a maximum of 200 people.
Authorities agreed to allow the new school term to begin next Monday as planned, but under tighter testing rules.
Also from next week, hospitality venues, nightclubs, weddings and other entertainment facilities will be allowed to host a maximum of 200 customers, down from 300.
Companies will have to ensure that 50 percent of their staff work remotely, up from 40 percent.
The new measures come after the Republic of Cyprus registered another record high of 5,457 daily infections and five deaths on Tuesday, from a population of around one million.
"The increased transmissibility of Omicron in relation to the Delta variant has brought record cases, but our health system endures," Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas told reporters.
"Doctors and scientists alone cannot defeat the pandemic... it can only be defeated by ordinary citizens following the instructions of the scientific and medical community," he added.
According to Agence France-Presse figures, Cyprus recorded the world's highest Covid infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants last week.
So far, the government has been reluctant to contemplate a fourth national lockdown.
Tourism-dependent Cyprus has also tightened entry requirements, with all arriving passengers required to present a negative PCR test carried out within the 72 hours before their departure, and to undergo another PCR test at the airport at their own expense.
Access to nightclubs, entertainment venues and wedding receptions requires vaccinated patrons to present a negative Covid-19 test carried out within 24 hours, though those with a booster shot are exempt.
All visits to hospital patients have been banned, and sports stadiums are restricted to 50 percent capacity.
Mask-wearing is mandatory for everyone aged six and over in public areas, both outdoor and indoor.
Double-vaccinated employees must undergo weekly tests, and unvaccinated individuals are banned from hospitality venues, hotels and nightclubs.
The Republic of Cyprus has officially registered 183,178 coronavirus cases and 646 deaths since the start of the pandemic.