The real estate market in Northern Cyprus has recorded unprecedented demand from foreign investors, thanks to a series of news stories in popular European media about the complete victory of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in the fight against the outbreak of coronavirus infection.
In March 2020, COVID-19 was first detected in Northern Cyprus in a member of a group of European tourists, which served as the starting point for the spread of the infection in the northern part of the island.
Subsequently, despite the rapid spread of the virus in the country, thanks to the prompt measures of the state authorities, as well as the strict observance of all recommendations and rules by the inhabitants of the country, the pandemic was successfully defeated by the end of April 2020.
Northern Cyprus very quickly took control of the situation with the spread of infection, even in comparison with the southern part of the island, where the number of infected citizens grew at a faster pace. It is for this reason that the government of the TRNC unilaterally made an urgent decision to immediately close the checkpoint between the northern and southern parts of the island.
Today, the TRNC is the first country in the world that has managed to completely suppress the spread of infection and, thanks to the quarantine efforts of the state and the conscientiousness of citizens, to take complete control of the situation in order to prevent a repeated outbreak of coronavirus in the northern part of the island.
We suggest that you familiarize yourself with the timeline of events related to the emergence of and the fight against COVID-19 in Northern Cyprus in the spring of 2020.
According to the Ministry of Health of the TRNC, on 10 March 2020, the first case of coronavirus infection in Northern Cyprus was detected in a 65-year-old tourist from Balingen (Germany), who arrived in Famagusta on holiday.
The woman was taken to hospital with a high fever, after which she was tested for COVID-19 and came out positive. Immediately after the detection of the disease, the German tourist was quarantined for treatment at the Levkosha state clinic (Nicosia).
The tourist arrived on the island in a tour group of 30 people. All members of the tour group, including guides and other tour personnel who were in contact with the patient, were similarly quarantined and kept under surveillance at the Salamis Hotel, Famagusta.
At the time of the medical check on 12 March 2020, there were 800 guests at the Salamis hotel. After the tests, the coronavirus was not detected in anyone else who was in the hotel. Orkide and Port View resorts were tested as a preventative measure and tested similarly negative.
Deputy Prime Minister Kudret Özersay announced the decision of the TRNC Council of Ministers for combatting the coronavirus. Entry to the island by air and sea was closed for the following countries: Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, Spain.
Preventative measures were introduced for Ercan airport and land checkpoints on the border with South Cyprus until 1 April 2020 inclusive. The Ministry of Health of Northern Cyprus took all the necessary measures in strict accordance with the country’s Law on Infectious Diseases.
On 12 March 2020, details were also released concerning the decision by the Government of the Northern Cyprus to close all educational institutions, including nurseries, schools, colleges and universities until 22 March 2020.
It was also announced that cinemas would be closed until 3 April 2020, and concerts, theatre performances, and various social, cultural and sporting events would be suspended.
On 13 March, three more infected people were identified, two of whom had returned from a trip to Germany, and the other one had flown in from the UK. All the patients were sent for treatment to the state clinic in Nicosia. At this point, the total number of infected people in the TRNC was 15.
As part of operational measures to prevent the spread of the virus on the island, on 15 March the government of Northern Cyprus decided that employees of state and private enterprises would be furloughed until 27 March. Exemptions were made for employees of state institutions:
- financial institutions;
- fire protection;
- civil defenc
In addition, shops selling non-essential goods were closed and only petrol stations, pharmacies and supermarkets continued to work according to a special schedule (from 7:00 to 18:00). Some grocery stores continued to operate in delivery mode and took orders by phone or online.
The Famagusta State Hospital was designated the main quarantine institution. The Council of Ministers of the Republic appealed to citizens with a request and recommendations not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary. By this time, Northern Cyprus was completely closed from the outside world, since it was decided to suspend sea and air traffic with the island and prohibit entry to citizens of absolutely all countries. A similar ban on entry into the country applied to Turkish citizens, except for those holding a work permit.
As of 16 March 2020, six more cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Northern Cyprus, and the total number of infected was 21 people.
On 20 March the Association of Banks of the TRNC announced the adoption of a number of measures aimed at supporting the population and economy of the state in connection with the crisis caused by the spread of COVID-19. Twenty-one banks in Northern Cyprus, including government and commercial financial institutions, approved the deferral of loan commitments for all consumer loans for a period of 3 months. The local authorities stressed that they are doing as much as possible to overcome the pandemic and are taking measures aimed at quickly overcoming the unexpected crisis with minimal losses.
Contribution of Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean University of the TRNC to the fight against the pandemic
On 22 March three more new cases of coronavirus infection were detected in Northern Cyprus, after which the country’s Ministry of Health decided to test all patients with a fever who sought medical help. Turkey allocated financial assistance to Northern Cyprus to fight the pandemic in the sum of 72 million Turkish lira (£7.5 million).
The Near East University in Famagusta launched the production of protective masks to provide medical personnel and government officials in quarantine areas with the necessary means of protection against infection.
By the decision of the government of the TRNC, 30 million Turkish lira were allocated from the state budget to mitigate the economic consequences caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic. The government announced the following measures:
- Taxes on the earnings of citizens:
- The income tax on earnings below 5,000 lira was abolished;
- For the period of the fight against the epidemic, tax deductions from the income of employees of the Ministry of Health, police, fire brigade, civil defense and state financial institutions were cancelled.
- 750 thousand lira were allocated to support small and medium-sized businesses.
- A state program was launched to provide loans and grants to the agricultural sector in order to support projects related to the development of animal husbandry and crop production.
- The interest rate on credit cards was reduced from 20% to 1%.
- A one-off 15% discount was approved for payment of electricity bills between March and May 2020.
During the most critical period of the lockdown, a large number of wealthy citizens and local business representatives organized humanitarian aid points at supermarkets and independently transported and distributed food to low-income families.
Businessman Orkun Altınbaş donated over 500 food parcels to the local authorities of Nicosia, with the aim of distributing them to people in need, the elderly and the sick. This is just one of hundreds of examples of generosity and charity during the COVID-19 crisis in Northern Cyprus.
In connection with the identification of four new cases of coronavirus in the village of Dipkarpaz, the decision was taken to introduce a curfew in the region. On 27 March, the number of infected people in the northern part of the island increased to 61 people.
- On 6 April, post offices and the vehicle registration department were reopened.
- On 9 April 2020, President Mustafa Akıncı said that the rate of increase in the spread of the pandemic in North Cyprus had slowed down several times, but did not end, therefore, it was premature to ease quarantine measures at that time.
- Authorized persons from the authorities of Kyrenia continue to inspect supermarkets, bakeries, butchers for compliance with the sanitary measures adopted by the Council of Ministers of the TRNC in the light of the fight against the spread of infection. By 11 April, as part of the checks, four supermarkets were closed due to not observing a safe distance between customers, as well as some employees lacking protective masks and disposable gloves.
- On 16 April, the government of the TRNC decided to build a hospital with an area of over 6,000 m2 to accommodate 182 patients.
- The city authorities organized street disinfection in cities and towns of Northern Cyprus. For moral support of the population, forced to remain in self-isolation, music was played from the vehicles of public utilities that performed sanitization, in the intervals between the appeals of the authorities to the local population to remain calm and maintain social distance.
- On 24 April, official government sources announced the opening of most of the sectors of the economy starting from 4 May.
- During the week up to 27 April, no new cases of COVID-19 were identified in Northern Cyprus.
- On 4 May, the opening of small businesses (auto repair shops, grocery stores, carpentry workshops, etc.) began. A little later, various establishments and institutions with a high footfall and high concentration of people were opened.
Thanks to the timely introduction of effective measures to combat the pandemic, the actions of the TRNC government, public services and the high civil responsibility of the local population, Northern Cyprus has successfully and completely prevented the spread of COVID-19 on its territory.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus became the first country in the world that managed to stop the spread of infection and take the situation under full control!