Cyprus reopened its airports to international travel on Tuesday as part of the third and most important phase of the easing of restrictions following a lockdown since mid-March, officials reported.
Transport, Communications and Works Minister Yiannis Karousos was at Larnaca Airport to meet a group of 22 people who flew in from Israel on the first incoming flight.
Five arrivals and five departures to and from Athens, Sofia and Tel Aviv were reported on Tuesday.
Karousos said that
he expected about 30,000 arrivals, not all of them tourists, by the end of the month.
He estimated that with the number of flights scheduled so far, 200,000 passengers will arrive in July and 400,000 in August, about 30 percent of them tourists.
These numbers are far lower than last year, when almost 4 million tourist arrivals were recorded in Cyprus.
Travelers from 13 countries — Greece, Malta, Bulgaria, Norway, Austria, Finland, Slovenia, Hungary, Israel, Denmark, Germany, Slovakia and Lithuania — can now fly in without restrictions.
Those arriving from Switzerland, Poland, Romania, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic will not be required to present a health certificate after June 19.
Travelers from six other European Union (EU) countries will have to present a negative COVID-19 test certificate until further notice.
Karousos said that Poland and Ukraine are querying the Cypriot authorities on when they can reinstate air connectivity with Cyprus.
According to Deputy Minister for Tourism Savvas Perdios, the first big wave of tourists — from the United Kingdom (UK) — is expected to arrive in the middle of July.
The UK and Russia are the two biggest sources of tourism for Cyprus, accounting for 55 percent of total visits.
Elena Kalogirou, chief executive officer (CEO) of Hermes Airports, which runs Larnaca and Paphos Airports, told journalists that 20 airlines have already routed flights to and from the two airports.
Kalogirou said that for now only passengers and employees are allowed to enter the airport buildings and that travelers are being screened by thermal cameras.
Cyprus has launched an online platform (www.cyprusflightpass.com), which travelers must visit to obtain and upload the required travel documents before being cleared for arrival.
Along with airports, other important facilities were also allowed to reopen on Tuesday, such as ports and marinas, shopping malls and department stores, catering facilities inside hotels, indoor restaurants and cafes, theaters and cinemas, kindergartens, nurseries and outdoor playgrounds.