Cyprus entered a three-week lockdown in its latest bid to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the lockdown, people are required to stay at home, and shopping malls, department stores, retail shops and restaurants should remain closed from Sunday, Xinhua news agency reported.
The streets of the capital Nicosia and other cities, which normally throb with life, were deserted at midday on Sunday, and highways were empty of cars.
Policemen were deployed on the streets to check people’s written or SMS passes, with which they are permitted to go out for a short time twice a day for buying essentials like food, or for physical exercise.
This is the second time similar measures have come into force, the previous one being from mid-March to the third week of May last year.
The first wave of the coronavirus pandemic was beaten effectively in the country. However, a second and more aggressive one started after airports were opened to international flights in early July.
The lockdown was announced on Friday by Minister of Health Constantinos Ioannou. He noted that a wave of infections and increased hospital admissions brought the public health system on the verge of its capacity in caring for Covid-19 patients.
Public health officials said they are preparing two hospitals in the cities of Larnaca and Paphos to accept coronavirus patients after almost all beds in dedicated Covid-19 hospitals were taken up.
The Ministry of Health announced on Saturday six more coronavirus deaths, which brought the death toll to 147. The country with a population of less than one million has registered a total of 27,071 Covid-19 cases since the pandemic broke out.