Decisions based on the number of infected passengers arriving by air and ferry will need reviewing as it emerges that the figures are totally wrong and quite the reverse.
Yesterday it was announced that a total of 66 ferry passengers had arrived in North Cyprus carrying Covid-19 since 1 July, while a total 33 airline passengers had tested positive for the virus on arrival.
Following recommendations from the Board of Health, the Cabinet announced that ferry passengers would be limited to 250 a day and that they would have to remain at the port until the results of their PCR tests were known. An increase in random testing was also announced.
It now emerges that there were errors in infection rate numbers and in fact the figures are 64 airline passengers infected with Covid-19 have arrived in North Cyprus since 1 July and 28 ferry passengers were carrying the virus within the same time frame.
The Cabinet’s original decision reportedly did not pass muster with travel companies or health professionals.
General Manager of Akgünler Ferries İbrahim Baştuğ, stated that they are in favour of justice and equality and described the original decision as “unfair”.
He said that the company supported health and safety measures but felt that the same restrictions should have been placed on the number of incoming airline passengers. “The decision is unfair and could drive the industry into bankruptcy”, Baştuğ said.
Meanwhile, Chairman of Pegasus Airlines Zeki Ziya said of potential restrictions to be applied to ferry passengers at Kyrenia Tourism Port, that the passengers that arrived in North Cyprus are tourists and those who already live in the country come here for short visits, will not endure the new conditions.
Ziya said, “At this stage, holidays are not a priority for anyone, therefore, the decrease in trips will cause problems for people who live and have jobs [here]. Things are getting worse every day, business sectors are having very difficult times. There is little consumerism in the country, the tourist population numbers have decreased, things are getting very difficult”, he said.
“The infrastructure of the port does not help matters, “Ziya stated, adding that the infrastructure at the Kyrenia Tourism Port is not suitable for holding the incoming passengers. Ziya said, “I don’t understand how they say we will keep dozens of people waiting there a day.”
Medical Professionals Call for Total Restrictions on Visitors
Underlining the need for restrictions on entering the country by both air and sea, Chest Diseases Specialist Dr Yağmur Aldag noted that the number of patients is increasing day by day, Dr. Aldağ said:
“There should be limitations, but not like this. There were more positive cases coming by air. What needs to be done, except for those who are obliged to come here, numbers should be limited so that we can deal with them. Every day we accommodate over 10 patients and we are coming to the end of our tether. This restriction must be made to enable us to properly care for patients.Those who live here can be arbitrarily commuting for work or health. Finally, is there any control with planes and ferries? Are masks put on or removed? Considering all these, restrictions should be imposed on entering the country by both means of transport.”
President of the Turkish Cypriot Medical Association Dr Özlem Gürkut called for a reduction in the number of airline passenger arrival, she said:
“There is a closed air circulation system on the plane, which is a big risk. The contact time between ferry passengers may be longer, but the open air is a mitigation, while the aircraft system recycles the air, which is a big risk.”
Dr Gürkut argued that the safety measures taken were not based on science, despite an assumption that the number of cases arriving by sea and air was correct. Underlining that the Council of Ministers should make more scientific-based decisions, Gürkut said, “ Moreover, contamination during travel will not show up in PCR tests for a short time. For this reason, we request a test three days in advance and testing again on arrival. There are too many people arriving by air”, she said.
Dr Gürkut also said that infection and mortality rates in Turkey have been greatly under- reported by the Turkish Ministry of Health. She went on to say that only 60% of cases are found by testing. Dr Gürkut warned again, that infection rates are on the rise locally. She also pointed to the lax attitude of those who did not observe social distancing and failed to wear masks in public spaces.