Northern Cyprus halts flights from Turkey on coronavirus fears

Northern Cyprus halts flights from Turkey on coronavirus fears
Ercan International Airport in Northern Cyprus only receives flights from Turkey.
By Akin Nazli in Belgrade September 10, 2020

Northern Cyprus, the de facto state recognised only by Turkey, has temporarily suspended all inbound flights due to a major rise in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, AFP reported on September 10.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), as it is officially named, which comprises the northeastern part of the island of Cyprus, only receives flights from Turkey. It requires new arrivals to be quarantined for seven to 14 days, depending on where the passengers declare they have been besides Turkey. However, TRNC officials have complained they were running out of hotel rooms and other capacities for self-isolation.

The breakaway region has so far officially recorded four COVID-19 deaths and 475 infections, but it has seen a jump in the rate of new cases. It registered 144 positive tests in the first eight days of September. 

Inbound flights have been halted according to a time-frame of the evening of September 9 to the evening of September 13, with the exception of emergency flights as well as military and medical flights, Mustafa Sofi, director of the TRNC civil aviation authority, said.

Outbound flights to Turkey will still be permitted.

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

Intensifying troubles in Turkey

Turkey’s own COVID-19 troubles are, meanwhile, intensifying.

The Turkish interior ministry has been perfunctorily issuing circular letters “upon the recommendation of the Health Ministry's Science Board and on the instruction of President and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chair Recep Tayyip Erdogan”.

They have brought in measures including making it mandatory to wear masks in public places and banning music in such places after midnight.

On September 10, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that Turkey’s eastern Van province on the Iranian border is among provinces where the number of coronavirus patients has quickly increased in the most recent period.

Also on September 10, Mustafa Adiguzel, an MP of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), stated that one out of every 30 MPs in Turkey’s 600-seat parliament has contracted the virus.

There are also mayors across Turkey and opposition party leaders, including former Erdogan ally and economy czar but now Deva (Democracy and Progress Party) leader, Ali Babacan, currently being treated for the disease, he added.

Faik Oztrak, deputy head of the CHP, is another politician who has tested positive for the virus.

MP points to city death rates

Some 8,850 people have died of COVID-19 in Turkey’s five biggest cities—Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Adana and Antalya, which are all controlled by the CHP—according to data from the municipalities cited by Adiguzel. The combined population of the cities is around 30mn people, compared to Turkey’s official population of 83mn, which excludes immigrants.

The government claims that less than 7,000 people have died of coronavirus across the whole of Turkey.

On September 9, Ali Karakoc, head of Ankara Medical Chamber, told local TV channel Tele 1 that presently around 4,000 coronavirus cases per day were being recorded in Ankara.

The health ministry figures show that the countrywide rate is around 1,500 cases per day as things stand.

Some of those wanting to get tested for coronavirus in Ankara are told by health officials that no test kits are available or that they would need to wait a minimum six to eight hours, Karakoc added.

There are media reports on “VIP”coronavirus tests, “VIP” coronavirus patients and black market tests.

According to The New York Times, the situation is similar in the US.

A scarcity of influenza vaccine shots is also an acute problem at the moment in Turkey. Karakoc warned that September and October will be hard for some due to the lack of vaccinations.

He also remarked that COVID-19 certainly does discriminate between the poor and the rich as the poor, ordinary workers and immigrants are those who are mainly hit.

On August 29, Bloomberg reported that the rich were staying at home while the situation of the poor got poorer.

On August 25, Lawrence Schembri, deputy governor of the Canadian central bank, warned that Canadians do not believe that official measures on inflation reflect the rising costs they face.

When it comes to Turks, they’re unlikely to care about such problems, pointing out that it is not as if their country ever lost its place as among the most unjust countries in the world and that no-one believed in the official data even before the pandemic.

Ankara is “burning”

On September 7, Haydar Demir, a member of the city parliament in Ankara, said during a sitting that Ankara is “burning” and that COVID-19 is seen everywhere fanning the flames.

Ankara mayor Mansur Yavas agreed, saying that “city hall is going down like ninepins, let me say”.

Also on September 7, Alexei Yerkov, Russian Ambassador to Ankara, said that his embassy and the Russian consulate general in top Turkish Mediterranean holiday resort Antalya were informed about 12 coronavirus-infected Russian tourists, with two of them hospitalised.