Coronavirus

COVID: British Forces Cyprus Schools Staying Open

Gyms and mess dining facilities will also be kept open behind the wire. The equivalent facilities are closed in the rest of Cyprus.

Thousands of military personnel and their families in Cyprus are living with new coronavirus restrictions as the republic has entered a full lockdown.

The number of cases on the British bases for the entirety of the pandemic is at 76.

Cases on the rest of the island in recent weeks have gone from 1,800 in October to more than 27,000 now.

Those living behind the wire on Sovereign Base Areas will face different restrictions to the rest of Cyprus.

Anyone who wishes to drive into the republic off base must first receive an authorisation text from the local Cypriot government.

"We now need to get permission to go beyond the bases into the Republic of Cyprus," Major General Rob Thomson, Commander British Forces Cyprus, said.

"Broadly, we are in step with the Republic of Cyprus and we are working through all the measures that were announced on Friday to give our people that clarity."

Maj Gen Thomson also told Forces News he has decided to keep schools, gyms and mess dining facilities open behind the wire.

The equivalent facilities are closed elsewhere in Cyprus.

"We have kept our gyms open. We're all soldiers, sailors and airmen here – we've got to stay fit.

"That's all about delivering operational impact, so we've got to stay fit and it keeps us mentally tuned as well."

The Commander British Forces Cyprus also explained the reasoning behind the decision to keep in-barracks dining facilities open.

Children's playpark sign at UK Base in Cyprus, which has not closed despite lockdown on island 110121 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Schools on the British bases in Cyprus will remain open.

He said: "The cookhouse here in Episkopi or Akrotiri or Dakhelia is not a commercial restaurant and we've explained that difference to our Cypriot friends."

Similarly, the decision to keep schools open also differs from the situation on the rest of the island.

"We've made the decision that the schools are safe for our children," Maj Gen Thomson said.

He explained that this is based on the incidences of coronavirus on the bases being "very low".

"Many of our people are key workers and they've got to be able to send their children to school and we've got the right protocols in place," he said.

However, he also added that this decision will be kept "under close scrutiny" in case the situation changes.

Cases of COVID-19 on the British bases remain low and so far none of the people who have tested positive have required hospitalisation.

"We had two cases at the weekend, which takes us to 76 cases within the British Forces Cyprus community," Maj Gen Thomson said.

He said the two new cases of COVID-19 are "people who've just come back" from the UK.

They were allowed to fly back to Cyprus after their coronavirus tests came back negative and they went into isolation on arrival.

Commander British Forces Cyprus speaking to Forces News about COVID lockdown in Cyprus 110121 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Major General Rob Thomson told Forces News there were two new cases of coronavirus on the bases at the weekend.

"They were tested at day seven before they were going to come out of isolation.

"Sadly, at day seven their tests are positive, which means that they must have had a false negative in the UK," the Major General told Forces News.

He added: "To reassure people – they've got no close contacts because they were already in isolation.

"It proves our system is careful, is robust and is being managed well."

A curfew from 21:00 until 05:00 the following day will remain in place until at least the end of January.

It is unclear at this stage whether the lockdown will be extended beyond that.

Most parts of the United Kingdom are also currently under restrictions.

England and Northern Ireland are both in lockdown, most parts of mainland Scotland and some of the islands are facing "enhanced level four" restrictions, while Wales is in national lockdown at alert level four.

On Monday, the Prime Minister warned that tougher lockdown measures may be needed.

Boris Johnson stressed that "now is the moment for maximum vigilance" amid increasing calls for tougher lockdown restrictions as case rates soar in several parts of the country.