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NICOSIA: Cyprus is to open up to 16 countries previously not on its coronavirus safe list, welcoming tourists from its largest markets Britain, Russia and Israel, the health ministry announced Monday. From April 1, they will not need special permission or to quarantine.

Cyprus has introduced a colour-coded system for Covid-19 risk-assessed countries. From 1 April, Cyprus is opening its doors to 16 countries including the UK, Russia, Israel, the UAE, Ukraine, Lebanon, Egypt, Belarus, Serbia, the US and Qatar.

Travellers from these countries will be allowed entry if they carry a negative coronavirus test, no older than 72 hours, and take another test upon arrival. From May 1, Cyprus will allow in Covid-19 vaccinated British tourists without any restrictions.

All tourists will still have to comply with health protocols such as mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing. Britain is the island's largest tourism market, accounting for a third of nearly four million arrivals in 2019, while nearby Israel is its third-biggest source.

The eastern Mediterranean island's key tourism industry has been devastated by the pandemic and travel curbs, with arrivals slumping by more than 80 percent last year. Russia, the second-largest tourist source, has been off its safe travel list since the pandemic reached its shores in March 2020.

Tourism makes up around 15 percent of Cypriot GDP, with earnings plunging 85 percent in 2020. The island has implemented two national lockdowns but had a milder outbreak than many other European Union countries.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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