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Cyprus will reintroduce mandatory face masks in response to rising coronavirus cases, in the first sign of summer holiday chaos for British holidaymakers.
The ruling will make face coverings a requirement in all indoor public venues, including shops, pubs and restaurants. It comes into effect for all over-12s on Friday.
It comes after daily Covid cases trebled in the past month, with around 1,500 a day on average by July 5 compared to fewer than 300 on June 5.
The decision represents a U-turn for the Cyprus Government, which only lifted the previous face mask mandate on June 1.
There are now concerns that other holiday destinations could follow suit, with cases rising in Spain, France and Germany and larger outbreaks in popular Caribbean islands.
MailOnline has spoken with Covid experts who have cancelled their foreign summer holiday plans in anticipation of further restrictions.
Mask-clad Greek Orthodox Cypriot priest attends mass at a church in the capital Nicosia
The reintroduction of face masks was announced by Cyprus’ Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela after a cabinet meeting today.
Hadjipantela cited an increase in Covid-related hospital cases and said infected people circulating freely without masks was a contributory factor.
According to last week’s health ministry Covid report, three people died from the virus and 75 patients were hospitalised, four in a serious condition.
On June 28, face masks were reintroduced for pharmacies, clinical labs and government testing sites for Covid. Coverings must also be worn when visiting hospitals, nursing homes and on public transport.
Many scientists prompted authorities to reinstate the mask following the latest surge in Covid cases and hospitalisations, attributed to the highly infectious Omicron subvariants BA4 and BA5.
Officials were hesitant about bringing them back at peak tourist season, especially when neighbouring countries do not have mask mandates.
Professor Martin McKee, president at the British Medical Association (BMA), told MailOnline yesterday that holidaymakers face a summer of uncertainty.
He said: ‘We can look at infection levels now but that doesn’t tell us where they will be when we actually travel. Nor does it tell us whether it has hit the people who fly us to our destination or handle our bags.’
Professor McKee added: ‘We’re not out of the woods yet.’
However, Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline that discrepancies between how nations test means differences in Covid rates are difficult to compare.
But he said he doesn’t expect nations — many of which are reliant on tourism, a sector which has been largely crippled by economically-damaging restrictions used during the pandemic — to bring in a swathe of curbs.
Professor Hunter said: ‘I really don’t which — if any — holiday destinations will change the rules. I doubt many holiday destination countries will make existing rules more restrictive.’
However, he noted that ‘there is an issue about staffing of airports and airlines if many staff are testing positive and so off work’.
When cases soared to pandemic highs in April, thousands of airport workers took time off ill, fuelling chaotic scenes in Heathrow and Birmingham airports.
Outbreaks across Europe are being fuelled by Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5, which are thought to be even more infectious than the BA.2 strain that caused infections in the UK to spiral to a record 4.1million in April.
The two newer sub-strains have caused cases in England to more than double in the last month. Data from the Office for National Statistics show 1.8million people were infected in the week to June 24 — rising by a third in a week and marking the highest rate in two months.
Ms Moran told the Mirror that it is ‘possible that holiday plans will be ruined due to rising Covid rates in the UK’.
She said: ‘Other countries could reintroduce restrictions on arrivals from Britain and transport companies, already in crisis from the Government’s mishandling of Brexit and industrial action, are likely to see an increase in staff shortages with more people off sick with the virus and long Covid.’
Dr David Strain, a senior clinical lecturer at Exeter University, told MailOnline that uncertainty around whether restrictions will be brought in destinations, some nations requiring masks and the risk of catching Covid on the plane or on holiday will leave Britons weighing up whether jetting abroad is worth it.
He has already scrapped his villa holiday in Spain for a UK camping staycation over concerns about the virus would wreak havoc on his travels.
Dr Strain warned that around one in 20 people will be infected as they get on a flight and up to five in 20 could be carrying the virus when they land — which could scupper holiday plans.
He urged Britons to consider whether there will be Covid restriction when they arrive at their destination and questioned whether that is a holiday people really want.
So, where else is at risk?
Covid cases in Spain, the UK’s top holiday destination, are on the rise.
The nation logged 417 cases per million people each day in the week to July 1, up 61.6 per cent from a fortnight earlier when 258 people tested positive daily.
However, the figure is still a fraction of the rate seen at the January peak — when 3,081 cases were logged were logged per day.
Travellers aged 12 and over from the UK have to show proof of vaccination, a previous infection or a negative test on arrival.
But Health Minister Carolina Darias last week told local media that everyone in the country should start wearing a face mask when inside in public spaces, warning cases and hospitalisations are at their highest level since February.
Covid infections in France are the highest they have been since April and are continuing to rise. Some 1,639 people per million tested positive in the week to July 4.
Infection rates have spiked 78.2 per cent over the last fortnight, when just 920 infections were being detected per million people.
The nation’s health minister Brigitte Bourguignon last week said people in France have a ‘civic duty’ to wear masks in crowded places, such as public transport, workplaces and shops, to help control the outbreak.
She said: ‘I’m not saying it should be mandatory but I do ask the French people to put the mask on in public transport. I’m not merely advising it, I’m asking for it.’
Dr Alain Fischer, the country’s vaccination chief, last month warned France was in the middle of a new wave of infections and voiced his support for bringing back the requirement to wear face masks on public transport.
Portugal, a favourite tourist hotspot among Britons, this week lifted all Covid entry requirements for travellers. As of July 1, arrivals in the country do not need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.
The country’s Government noted that these measures ‘may be reviewed in accordance to the evolution of the pandemic’.
But cases in the country have been falling for a month. Some 869 people per million tested positive on June 30, a 44.2 per cent drop compared to the infection rate two weeks earlier.
And experts told MailOnline those planning to enjoy some sun in Portugal shouldn’t face much disruption to their plans.
Britons weighing up whether they should go ahead with their summer holiday plans should consider whether they will face restrictions when they arrive, Exeter University senior clinical lecturer Dr David Strain said.
Portugal is ‘unlikely’ to see a return of measures, such as face masks and social distancing, because they have just been through a wave fuelled by the BA.4 and BA.5 Covid strains, he said.
Covid cases are at a two-month high in Germany, with infections jumping 49.7 per cent in the last fortnight, from 715 to 1,070 positive tests logger per million people.
Britons arriving in Germany have not had to show proof of vaccination, recovery from the virus or a negative test to enter the country.
However, surgical FFP2 face masks are required on public transport.
And Chancellor Olaf Scholz this week warned that face masks ‘will play a bigger role’ in the coming months than they currently do.
Virus infections in Italy have soared to a five-month high in Italy.
Some 1,293 people tested positive per day in the week to July 4 — up 36.8 per cent in a fortnight.
Covid waves in the country have followed a similar pattern to that in the UK, with waves peaking in January and March before beginning to rise again in June.
Those landing in the country have not been required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test since June 1. However, masks are required on public transport and those who test positive in the country must isolate for one week.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza this week told local media that ‘anyone who is infected must stay at home’, saying it was ‘unimaginable’ that the 650,000 isolating should be able to ‘move around’.
Greece is logging one of the highest infection rates in Europe, with 1,441 daily cases per million people in the last week — more the double the 681 logged two weeks ago. Infections are at their highest rate for three months.
Those arriving in the country no longer need display their vaccination status or a negative test. However, face masks are required on public transport, including on cruise ships, yachts and ferries used to explore the island.
Greece’s National Public Health Organization reports that infections are rising their fastest in tourist hotspots, including Crete, and the Ionian and South Aegean islands.
Cases of the coronavirus are ticking upwards in Croatia. The nation has seen infections nearly triple from 74 per million people per day to 210.
Arrivals no longer need to fill out passenger arrival forms, show proof of vaccination or a negative test.
Masks are now only required in hospital and care homes.
Egypt has reported zero Covid infections for more than two months.
But health ministers told local media that cases have jumped seven per cent in the past week. They blamed the BA.4 and BA.5 variants and waning immunity, with the last lot of vaccinations dished out six months ago.
However, hospitalisations and deaths remain at their lowest level since the pandemic began, according to the Ministry of Health.
Along with most other countries, arrivals no longer need to fill out arrival documents, prove their vaccinated or provide a negative test.
Virus infections are rising sharply in Turkey. The country logged 141 infections per million people yesterday — nearly 11 times more than the 13 it recorded two weeks earlier.
Cases had been trending downwards in Turkey since January, when infections soared to pandemic highs of 1,216 per million.
However, holidaymakers have been able to arrive in the country without having to prove their are vaccinated or tested negative since June 1.
And they are no longer required to wear masks, although health chiefs advise people to wear them in crowded places.
Professor Serap Şimşek Yavuz, a member of the Health Ministry’s Covid advisory board told local Demirören News Agency that Istanbul, the Turkey’s most populated city, is seeing the biggest rise in cases.
Covid cases are trending upwards in Tunisia, where 66 people per million tested positive per day in the week to June 29 — the latest date figures are available for.
For comparison, the country logged just 11 infections per day a fortnight earlier — a sixth of the current level.
Tunisia eased mandatory five-day self-isolation for travellers last month. However, arrivals aged 18 and over still have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test taken within 24 hours of arriving.
And after landing in the country, passengers may be tested at random with PCR swabs.
Morocco is in the midst of a fourth wave, logging 80 infections per million people. Cases have double from 40 a fortnight ago and are at a five-month high and half the level of the Omicron-fuelled January peak.
Holidaymakers aged 18 and over must show proof of being triple-jabbed or a negative test taken within 72 hour of boarding. Randomly selected passengers will be tested at random on arrival.
Infections are ticking upwards in the US, where 308 people per million tested positive yesterday, up eight per cent in the last fortnight.
Positive tests have been on the rise since April, after they plummeted to 80 per million, compared to 2,424 per million in January at the height of the Omicron wave.
New York City’s test positivity rate reached 10.3 percent for the first time in six months. The BA.5 sub-lineage is believed to be behind the rise.
The BA.5 variant now makes up 36.6 percent of sequenced cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mexico is logging a rise in Covid cases, reporting 140 per million people yesterday, compared to 59 per million two weeks earlier — an increase of 137.3 per cent.
Infections began creeping upwards in May and are now at their highest level since February, although the prevalence of the virus is less than half of that seen at the January peak.
Travellers do not need to provide proof of a negative test or show their vaccination status.
But some cities and states have Covid requirements in place.
Cases have increased by a fifth in Thailand over the last fortnight — from 29 to 34 per million — but are still at very low levels. Last month, cases fell to their lowest level in more than a year.
Travellers have to show a vaccination certificate, a negative PCR test or professionally administered lateral flow test to get into the country.
Those without proof of a negative test will have to pay for and take one at the airport and those who test positive must pay for any medical expenses.
However, masks and other curbs are no longer in place.
Covid infections are flat in Vietnam, where around eight people per million have been testing positive per day for the last month. The country’s latest wave began to retreat in March, after spiking at 2,791 cases per million.
The country eased its Covid rules in mid-May, so that arrivals don’t need to show their vaccination status or a negative test.
Covid infections are rising steeply in Barbados, with confirmed daily cases jumping 73.9 per cent from 314 to 546 per million over the last two weeks.
Meanwhile, Dominican Republic has seen cases climb steadily by 45.3 per cent over the last fortnight, from 75 to 109 per million.
Seychelles has seen a slight uptick, from 228 to 257 in the two weeks to July 1.
However, the outlook is better in Cuba, where cases have been flat for more than a month, with around three positive tests confirmed per day.
And infections are falling in Saint Lucia, where cases have dropped from 139 to 96 over the last two weeks.
Daily infections in the former zero-Covid country Australia. The nation yesterday logged 1,294 infections per million people, up by a fifth compared to two weeks prior.
International arrivals are no longer required to prove their vaccination status as of tomorrow. However, masks must be worn on all international inbound flights as well as domestic flights.
Dr Kerry Chant, the chief health officer in New South Wales, this week urged people to wear masks in indoor public spaces over concerns about the spread.
Health leaders in Queensland said a return to mandatory masks is not being considered. But the Australian Capital Territory, which includes the capital Canberra, said the move was not being ruled out.