Cyprus

COVID: What Impact Will Latest Cyprus Restrictions Have On Military Personnel?

New measures include restricting the movements of military families at select bases, with curfews from 20:00 to 05:00 each night.

British Forces Cyprus will be impacted by new COVID-19 measures being introduced on parts of the island.

A recent rise in on-base Cyprus coronavirus cases, from 14 at the beginning of October to the latest number of 62, has led to the imposition of a curfew, in line with one imposed in the nearby areas of Limassol and Paphos.

This includes the Western Sovereign Base Area, with military personnel and families told not leave home from 20:00 to 05:00, until 30 November.

"We’ve seen in the second spike that there have been more cases in Cyprus and that has also affected us here in the bases," Major General Rob Thomson, Commander of British Forces Cyprus (BFC), told Forces News.

RAF Akrotiri, RAF Troodos and Episkopi Cantonment will be subject to the curfew, unless personnel are contributing to operational outputs on base.

Travel between the two districts and those outside, including the Eastern Sovereign Base Area, is prohibited, while BFC calls for minimal non-essential travel.

Exemptions to these rules include medical and professional reasons and must be signed off through the chain of command.

The UK has also announced that from 04:00 local time on 14 November, those arriving on military flights from Cyprus will now have to isolate for 14 days.

Maj Gen Thomson stated there are also exemptions to this policy: "I can deliver waivers, where it’s operationally necessary, or if people have got a professional course or a medical appointment," he said.

Test tubes with COVID-19 coronavirus labels on
The island of Cyprus has seen a spike in the number of cases of coronavirus (Picture: PA).

He added that "nothing is changing" with regards to Christmas leave bookings, and that two-week isolation periods in the UK "might change in the future" now that Cyprus has been removed from the UK's 'travel corridor'.

For those wanting to return to Cyprus from the UK, only "immediate family", such as children returning from school or university students, will be allowed to use the trooper flights.

Trooper flights are military-operated services which can be used by military personnel or their dependents to travel to a deployment or to base.

"You can’t invite your grandmother and your grandfather to come on the trooper, and the rules are quite clear on that," Maj Gen Thomson added.

While Limassol and Paphos have now seen the temporary closure of gyms and restaurants, there have been two exemptions made for personnel on the three affected bases.

Gyms and in-barracks dining facilities will remain open to boost “operational capability” and wellbeing, the Commander said.

Asked about the significance of mental health as restrictions tighten once more, he thanked the BFC community.

The Commander referenced the resilience of personnel in delivering operational outputs throughout the pandemic, all while taking care of one another, "looking up and down the chain of command".

"It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Major General or whether you’re a Senior Aircraftman or a Corporal, there is pressure that COVID brings to bear, personally and on families and on our wider communities," he said.

"It won’t be tomorrow, it won’t be next week, but we will get through this.

"The key thing is to stay together, to look after each other, and to continue doing our really, really important work."