Cypriot nationals and legal residents of the island will be able to cross through all checkpoints barring that on Ledra Street as of Sunday, but will need to present proof of a negative coronavirus test conducted up to 72 hours prior to crossing.
The decision to reopen checkpoints emerged during a meeting on Friday morning of the health advisory committee chaired by President Nicos Anastasiades, with the participation of the Greek Cypriot co-President of the bicommunal technical committee on health, Leonidas Phylactou.
Speaking to the press after the meeting, deputy government spokesman Panayiotis Sentonas said Cyprus nationals and legal residents of Cyprus will be able to travel freely across checkpoints from June 21 on condition that they show proof of being free of the virus.
Sentonas added that authorities of the Republic will also conduct random tests on those crossing.
The decision, however, is not set in stone, Sentonas said, as it may be adjusted according to epidemiological developments, given that the Turkish Cypriot members of the bicommunal health committee said the north will be allowing flights from Turkey, which the EU has categorized as a high-risk country as regards coronavirus.
Sentonas noted that the health advisory committee was unanimous in its position that the epidemiological and other data submitted verbally and not in written form by the Turkish Cypriot members of the bicommunal health committee do not paint a clear picture of the coronavirus situation in the north, and produce “serious doubts”, as Sentonas said, about the north’s ability to deal with the situation.
The deputy government spokesperson said the office of the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci was informed of Friday’s decision.
Sunday is expected to mark a historic moment for Cyprus, as checkpoints have been closed to the public for over three months, disrupting the daily lives and connectivity of the ethnically-divided island.
Though the island’s first coronavirus cases appeared in the south on March 9, the government of the Republic had already moved to suspend the operation of four out of a total of nine Buffer Zone crossings on February 28, those at Ledras Street, Astromeritis, Lefka and Dherynia, citing precautions against the spread of the virus.
The move had initially received opposition from both sides, with protests taking place at the Ledra Street crossing demanding that the checkpoints are re-opened and the coronavirus crisis dealt is with collectively rather than by cutting off the two communities.
Movement across all checkpoints was then prohibited by the government in the north on April 11.
Vocal opposition to the enduring closure of checkpoints was voiced by some thousands Turkish Cypriot workers employed in the Republic, who were unable to cross to get to work, depriving them of a living wage.
Checkpoints that can be crossed by vehicle then partially resumed operation for specific groups, including Turkish Cypriots working in the south, enclaved and other Greek Cypriots living in their villages in the north, and those that receive treatment from medical instutions in the Republic.