The President’s Cabinet in the Republic of Cyprus decided on Friday to subsidize summer vacations for citizens who are vaccinated, following the approval of a number of incentives and counterincentives aimed to boost vaccination rates on the island as daily cases now exceed 500.
According to newly-appointed Health Minister Michael Hadjipantela, the government is calling on the youth to rise to the occasion and protect themselves from the coronavirus, as well as help provide safety for their families including their grandparents.
“We aim to open the gate of our own freedom,” Hadjipantela said.
“What we are asking of the youth is to make the first move and hurry up to get vaccinated, so that we can send the message that all of us are united in this fight,” the minister added.
One of the incentives, according to the minister, focuses on young conscripts in the National Guard who are eligible for a five-day honorary leave of absence if they are vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated by August 31.
Additional incentives are also targeting vaccinated people who will be eligible to receive a state subsidy between July 15 and August 31 to pay for a summer vacation.
Details about the vacation scheme will be announced on Monday but it was understood that it came with a counterincentive, after the Cabinet decided for the government to stop August 1 providing free rapid tests to those who need to obtain a Safe Pass but choose not to get vaccinated.
A Safe Pass, which allows people to have access to certain places and events, can be obtained by those having vaccination history against the coronavirus, proof through government records that they have recovered from COVID, or a negative rapid test valid for 72 hours.
Starting Friday, July 9, a Safe Pass will once again be required in both indoor and outdoor areas designated as high-risk for COVID transmission, such as bars and clubs, graduation parties, workplaces and more.
The decision came a week after daily cases rose exponentially, with reports saying 40% of infections involved teenagers.
While experts warn that vaccinations do not stop transmission of the virus, government officials and health experts point to data suggesting vaccinated individuals have a lower risk of getting infected or seriously ill.
According to the World Health Organization, a COVID-19 vaccine prevents serious illness and death but the extent to which it keeps people from being infected and passing the virus on to others remained unknown.
“The more we allow the virus to spread, the more opportunity the virus has to change,” WHO said, reminding governments to continue to take actions to slow and eventually stop the spread of the virus, such as social distancing, face mask use, and following personal hygiene guidelines.
Other measures aim at the creation of COVID-free zones between 9 and 20 July, when people who hold a Safe Pass can attend a football match or congregate in cinemas, theaters, and concerts at 50% capacity. The percentage will be revised upwards starting July 21 with 75% allowed in.
Concern over vaccinated infections up overseas
Concern over vaccinated infections went up overseas, after a rise in COVID cases was recorded in countries with higher percentage of vaccinations, such as the UK and Israel.
Last month, according to Israeli media, about half of adults infected in the country’s recent Delta outbreak were fully inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine, prompting the government to re-issue mandates for indoor use of face masks regardless of vaccination status.
But Cypriot officials said they did not favor additional measures that could restrict the freedom of those who got the vaccine, choosing instead to focus on incentives and counterincentives for getting the jab.