Northern Cyprus temporarily halts flights over virus

Northern Cyprus, an entity recognised only by Turkey, on Wednesday announced the temporary suspension of inbound flights due to a major rise in active coronavirus cases. 

The breakaway region has so far officially recorded four deaths and 475 infections, but has seen a jump in new cases, registering 144 positive tests in the first eight days of September. 

Mustafa Sofi, director of the north’s civil aviation authority, said inbound flights would be halted from Wednesday evening to Sunday evening, with the exception of emergency flights as well as military and medical planes. 

The north only receives flights from Turkey, and requires new arrivals to be quarantined for seven to 14 days, depending on where the passengers have been besides Turkey.

But officials said they were running out of hotel and other rooms for self-isolation. Outbound flights to Turkey will still be allowed.

On Tuesday, the Turkish Cypriot cabinet also announced the closure until October 1 of schools, clubs, discos, cinemas, theatres and casinos, which are banned in Turkey and are a major tourist draw.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey occupied its northern third in response to a coup engineered by the military junta in Athens, which had sought to unite the island with Greece.

The breakaway region declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, but is only recognised by Ankara. Decades of stop-start talks, mostly under UN auspices, have failed to achieve reconciliation.