Three times more printed forms were used than text messages from those seeking permission to be outside, prior to the stricter restrictions introduce this week, Justice Minister Giorgos Savvides said on Thursday.
The minister reiterated the government’s position that it was not easy to impose such strict measures but there was no other choice.
It was painful having to impose restriction on civil liberties, he said, and trying to hold back deaths.
“The utmost right is that of life,” Savvides told CyBC.
He said that so far 13 decrees had been issued as part of efforts to restrict coronavirus while the situation was being assessed daily to avoid having to make the decision like in other countries on who could be placed on a ventilator.
“We don’t want to reach a point where our health system collapses and having to choose who has the right to live and who to die,” Savvides said.
The minister said people had been abusing the permissions to be outside, which led to further restrictions.
“We have seen a huge abuse of the use of Form B compared to SMSs which led us to forbid the use of those forms for those under 65. We had had triple the number of forms than text messages,” he said. Form B is for exemption from restrictions on day-to-day movements for non-work reasons.
The minister also said that by comparison, people who tested positive in Cyprus usually have many more contacts compared with other countries.
“This means we do not take seriously the necessity to temporarily restrict ourselves and avoid meeting many people,” Savvides said.
Savvides said that his ministry had requested help from other bodies such as the National Guard and the Game and Fauna service to send staff to help out in the checks.
“It’s said that it is so necessary to carry out so many checks, despite warnings on the seriousness of the situation. Some have yet to realise the problem,” he said.
The minister said he was not aware of reports that some police officers were seen also taking the temperature of drivers.
A source within the police told the Cyprus Mail no such instructions were given, although the temperature is taken of those entering the police headquarters.
On reports that on some occasions police officers had requested more information from the person they stopped for checks such as the colour of their car and requesting to see proof of ownership, the source said perhaps the officer on duty thought there was something suspicious about the vehicle.
Pointing out that around 4,000 checks werer being carried out daily, the source said officers might also check other things if they believe there’s an issue, regardless if they stopped someone to check if they have permission to be outside.
The same source also said that the national guardsmen and game and fauna officers who help police in their patrolling are paired up with police officers.
They do not have the right to arrest or report anyone. “It is the police officer who does that,” the source said. Civil defense too will be patrolling but they will be notifying the police in case there’s anything to report.