As Covid-19 cases spike on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus —a popular destination known for its colorful villages, beautiful beaches, vineyard-covered countryside and abundant archaeological sites — the country has reintroduced its indoor face mask mandate for all people over 12.
The mandate will go back into effect on Friday, Cyprus’s health ministry announced Wednesday, barely a month after authorities lifted the previous face mask mandate on June 1.
The move comes following a new spike in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, with the nation’s health ministry recording nearly 20,000 positive cases from June 25 to July 5, said Cyprus Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela, who also cited an increase in Covid-related hospital cases. The minister said that infected people circulating without masks was a contributory factor to the spike.
After a steady decline in Covid cases since mid-March, Europe has recorded three consecutive weeks of increased new cases. Over 1.8 million new cases were reported in the region in the past week, a 33% increase compared to the previous week, according to the World Health Organization. Other European countries are also seeing huge spikes in new infections include Spain (up 531%), Italy (up 61%), France (up 37%) and Germany (up 23%).
Despite this new wave of Covid-19 cases, most European countries have completely lifted their entry restrictions prior to the summer travel season. Exceptions include France, Malta and Spain, which each require American travelers to provide proof of vaccination, recovery, or a recent negative test result.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has Cyprus on a Level 3 travel health notice, meaning there is a high risk for Covid-19 infection. The vast majority of the world — 113 countries — are at Level 3. Notably, the United States also meets the criteria for this level of risk.
The highly transmissible BA.5 omicron subvariant is now the dominant coronavirus strain in the U.S., accounting for more than half of Covid-19 infections last week, according to the CDC. Over 16% of U.S. coronavirus tests came back positive last week, the highest positivity rate since early February.