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To Lure Back Tourists, Cyprus Says It Will Cover Costs If They Contract Coronavirus

Hoping to draw tourists to Cyprus this summer, officials cite the "open-air lifestyle, abundance of personal space" and clean air. Here, rows of beach umbrellas await visitors on a nearly empty stretch of Nissi beach at the seaside resort of Ayia Napa earlier this month.
Hoping to draw tourists to Cyprus this summer, officials cite the "open-air lifestyle, abundance of personal space" and clean air. Here, rows of beach umbrellas await visitors on a nearly empty stretch of Nissi beach at the seaside resort of Ayia Napa earlier this month.

If a visitor to Cyprus tests positive for the coronavirus this summer, the government will cover many of their expenses — including food, drink and lodging — according to a new plan that maps out how the island nation can revive its crucial tourism industry.

"The Cyprus government is committed to taking care of all travelers who test positive during their stay, as well as their families and close contacts," the plan states. "The government will cover the cost of lodging, food, drink, and medication, in all cases mentioned above; the traveler will only need to bear the cost of their airport transfer and repatriation flight."

Nearly 4 million tourists visited Cyprus last year, according to government statistics, generating nearly $3 billion in revenue for the country. Cyprus has a population of about 1.28 million.

Cyprus say it will ease restrictions on international air travel on June 9. But the island has been returning to normal business activities for the past month. It's poised to restart its hospitality economy on June 1 — one day after health experts expect the country to achieve full containment of the coronavirus.

The first visitors to the Mediterranean country next month will be required to pass coronavirus tests in their home nations within 72 hours of their trip. But that and other restrictions will be dropped for those from certain countries, depending on their "epidemiological status," according to a letter outlining the plan. It was signed by the ministers of tourism, foreign affairs and transportation.

Cyprus will conduct an "epidemic risk assessment" of countries on a weekly basis, using criteria that ranges from testing capacity to the rates of new cases and deaths. The first iteration of that list categorizes 13 countries as "low risk," from Malta, Israel and Greece to Germany, Norway and Slovakia.

The pitch for touring Cyprus in the pandemic age ranges from the general — the ministers cite its "open-air lifestyle, abundance of personal space" and clean air — to the clinical, as they also note the country's ratio of intensive care units per capita is one of the highest in the Mediterranean.

If tourists are diagnosed during their visit, they can use special facilities that are being reserved for them.

"A COVID-19 hospital with 100 beds will be made available exclusively for travelers who test positive," the plan states, adding that capacity can be expanded at very short notice.

The plan also includes a range of details about how the country's restaurants and beaches will work to reduce the chance of infection, from requiring more than 12 feet between beach umbrellas to disinfecting salt and pepper mills.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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