Flights to Cyprus to resume from select countries next month

People walk on Ledra street a main shopping street in Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, May 21, 2020. Cyprus took a major step toward a return to normality o...
Protection informations for the clients at the entrance of a hair salon as a hairdresser wearing a mask to protect against coronavirus attends to clie...
People sit under the outdoor patio of a cafe in Cyprus' capital Nicosia, Thursday, May 21, 2020. Cyprus took a major step toward a return to normality...
Medical officials conduct coronavirus tests, at Engomi B primary school in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, May 21, 2020. Cyprus took a major step t...
In this photo taken on Sunday, May 10, 2020, people walk among folded beach umbrellas dotted on an empty stretch of "Nissi beach" in Ayia Napa, Cyprus...
In this photo taken on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, beachgoers walk at the water's edge and a toddler tries to catch up to her mother on a nearly empty st...
Swimmers enjoy the sea water at an empty stretch of Dome beach hotel at Makrinissos in Cyprus' seaside resort of Ayia Napa, a favorite among tourists ...
Beachgoers walks at the sea water during sunset at an empty stretch of Dome beach hotel at Makrinissos in Cyprus' seaside resort of Ayia Napa, a favor...

People walk on Ledra street a main shopping street in Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, May 21, 2020. Cyprus took a major step toward a return to normality o...

Protection informations for the clients at the entrance of a hair salon as a hairdresser wearing a mask to protect against coronavirus attends to clie...

People sit under the outdoor patio of a cafe in Cyprus' capital Nicosia, Thursday, May 21, 2020. Cyprus took a major step toward a return to normality...

Medical officials conduct coronavirus tests, at Engomi B primary school in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, May 21, 2020. Cyprus took a major step t...

In this photo taken on Sunday, May 10, 2020, people walk among folded beach umbrellas dotted on an empty stretch of "Nissi beach" in Ayia Napa, Cyprus...

In this photo taken on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, beachgoers walk at the water's edge and a toddler tries to catch up to her mother on a nearly empty st...

Swimmers enjoy the sea water at an empty stretch of Dome beach hotel at Makrinissos in Cyprus' seaside resort of Ayia Napa, a favorite among tourists ...

Beachgoers walks at the sea water during sunset at an empty stretch of Dome beach hotel at Makrinissos in Cyprus' seaside resort of Ayia Napa, a favor...

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus on Friday outlined plans for the phased resumption next month of commercial flights from a select number of countries with low COVID-19 infection rates to jump-start its vital tourism sector.

Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said flights will begin in two phases — June 9 and 20 — from two groups of countries selected by an advisory body of medical experts.

The first group is comprised of Greece, Malta, Bulgaria, Norway, Austria, Finland, Slovenia, Hungary, Israel, Denmark, Germany, Slovakia and Lithuania. The second group is made up of Switzerland, Poland, Romania, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic. The list excludes the country’s two main tourism markets, former colonial ruler Britain, and Russia.

Karousos said starting June 9, passengers arriving from countries in either group must obtain three days prior to departure a health certificate confirming that they are virus-free.

Starting June 20, passengers from the first group of countries won’t need health certificates, but those from the second group will still be required to obtain them.

Aircraft arriving from any country not included in either group will only be permitted to carry Cypriot citizens or foreign nationals who permanently reside in Cyprus, or anyone who has been granted special permission.

These passengers will also have to obtain a health certificate three days prior to departure. They can opt to be tested in Cyprus, but will have to stay in self-isolation for one day in designated accommodation.

Passengers arriving from any other country are required to self-isolate at home for 14 days.

Anyone arriving from countries that don’t have labs capable of conducting specialized tests for the virus can be tested in Cyprus.

Passengers will have to cover costs relating to testing, quarantine accommodations or transport.

Karousos said hotels that have been shuttered since a strict stay-at-home order was imposed in late March, and lifted earlier this week, will open their doors on June 1.

More countries will be added to the two groups in the coming days, the minister said. Tourism officials said medical experts will assess the course of the pandemic in the U.K. and Russia before flights from those countries can begin.

Marketing its year-round sunny skies, pristine beaches and Mediterranean cuisine to entice holidaymakers, Cyprus relies heavily on tourism. The sector directly accounts for 13 percent of the east Mediterranean island nation’s gross domestic product.

Government tourism officials estimate that the country will lose 70% of the initially anticipated 2.6 billion euros ($2.83 billion) tourism-generated revenues this year. Authorities are eager to get hotels and other businesses up and running to keep unemployment numbers from spiking and to buttress a still fragile economic recovery from a 2013 financial crisis that almost bankrupted the country.

But health officials insist that the resumption of flights and the arrival of foreign travelers won’t be allowed to jeopardize Cyprus’ so-far successful handling of the pandemic. To date, Cyprus — with a population of around 880,000 — has reported 927 confirmed coronavirus infections and 17 deaths.

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