Cyprus beaches reopen as new virus cases hit zero

Larnaca (Cyprus) (AFP) –


A new form of beach life, spaced apart, emerged Saturday on the Mediterranean holiday island of Cyprus after more than two months of coronavirus-imposed curbs were lifted on freedom of movement.

The relaxation coincided with the first day of zero new cases of coronavirus in Cyprus since the first were declared on March 9.

"The people are good, the water's good, the weather's good, things are cool," said Georgios, a young gym trainer.

"We're here, we're having a good time... we're taking our safety measures."

The lifting of a swimming-only decree in force on the beaches brought sunbathers back out on the seashore -- but under social distancing rules.

The health ministry has issued directives on the placement of sunbeds and parasols. Also, only members of the same family can jointly take part in water sports.

"We've put the tables two metres (six feet) apart," said Panayiotis Neokleous, owner of the normally bustling Ammos beach club near the airport in the southern resort town of Larnaca.

"All the staff have taken the (COVID-19) test, they are all negative. Now we are all wearing protective masks, gloves and we disinfect our hands many times," he said.

The US-educated Neokleous acknowledged that the summer season was "going to be not so good because tourists are not going to come, or if they come, it'll be late".

"We are going to see a lot of restaurants and hotel businesses not going to make it and will have to close down," he said.

But for personal trainer Vanessa, a regular at the club, Saturday was a time to celebrate, even if a heat wave earlier in the week had given way to strong wind and choppy waters.

"I am very happy to be back ... And this is my favourite place to be... Anyway I'm glad it's all over and I hope it's going to be better," she said.

On Saturday, Cyprus also reported zero new coronavirus cases after the daily number of infections since the start of the month were down to single figures.

And on Friday the east Mediterranean holiday island announced a phased reopening of its airports to commercial flights from June 9.

But its two largest tourist markets, Britain and Russia are not on the initial lists, amid concerns over infection levels in the two countries.

The Cypriot government ended a strict stay-at-home lockdown on Thursday, reopening outdoor restaurants, barber shops as well as beaches, although hotels remain closed for now.

Since mid-March people could only go outside for exercise and essential trips which needed to be approved by text message while a curfew was enforced every night.