If you've visited Cyprus, you know that it's the local custom for some Cypriots to greet everyone, whether they know them or not, with a friendly smile and a "Ya Su." Though that's usually translated as "hello," the real meaning is, "I wish you good health."
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Republic of Cyprus is trying to kick-start its tourism industry by promising to work for the health of every visitor who arrives on this history-packed and beachy isle.
Yesterday, Cyprus' ministries of Foreign Affairs, Transport, and Tourism released a letter announcing an unusual plan for reopening the country to tourism on June 9, the day international flights start arriving.
Not only will Cyprus enforce social distancing standards and work with tourist sites to disinfect high-touch areas, it will also guarantee care to any visitor who comes down with Covid-19 after arriving in the nation.
This initiative will likely only cover those who fly into Larnaca or Paphos, the airports for the Republic, and not the break-off Turkish areas on the island.
"The Cyprus Government is committed to taking care of all travelers who test positive for the coronavirus during their stay, as well as their families and close contacts," the ministries' letter stated. "The government will cover the cost of lodging, food, drink and medication."
The only costs left to travelers will be transportation to the airport (when they're well enough to travel again), and the cost of their transport home.
It's a pretty remarkable offer considering most countries today have slammed the door shut to sick travelers. The plight of the thousands of cruise ship crews who are still being refused by ports worldwide only underscores just how tribal the world's nations have become in the face of this pandemic.
Granted, Cyprus is in a position to offer this help to travelers. Health-care outcomes in Cyprus compare favorably to those in the European Union. And because medicine is subsidized, doctor visits and procedures are affordable. Cyprus has had good luck with the virus thus far, with one of the lowest per-capita infection rates in Europe (17 deaths at this writing).
The Cyprus government announced it will dedicate one hospital to the treatment of visitors only. Two hundred ventilators and a large number of ICU beds have supposedly been set aside for the purpose. A 500-room "quarantine hotel" will also be made available for the traveling companions of those who get ill.
Will Cyprus get a lot of sick tourists? I doubt it.
At this stage, Cyprus will only admit visitors from nations with very low infection rates and relatively low death rates. By that measure, visitors from Germany, Norway, Denmark, Israel, and several other European nations would likely be welcome. But at this point, United States citizens will not be allowed to visit.
Travelers from preferred "A" nations will fill out an extensive questionnaire about their health and possible contacts with infected individuals, but they will not be required to take any other steps. Upon arrival, visitors from more infected "B" nations will be required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival, or they will have to pay €60 (US $67) to take a test.
No doubt these measures are being adopted to prop up a place that is dependent on tourism, which in Cyprus accounts for roughly 20% of the gross domestic product.
Still, these plans show a depth of thoughtfulness, forward-thinking, and humanity that is sorely missing elsewhere in the world.
A salute to Cyprus for demonstrating the real meaning of hospitality!