A demonstration against mandatory vaccination in Cyprus dissolved into a riot on Sunday evening, as a group of protestors clashed with police outside the Presidential Palace and trashed the offices of a TV station.
Clashes had taken place outside the palace between protesters and police after the rally was drawing to a close.
A little later, at around 9:30 PM local time, a group of attackers, from the ranks of the protestors who were outside the presidential palace, broke into the Dias group building that houses Sigma TV; they then attacked staff, set fire to cars in the parking lot and trashed the offices.
Photos on the SigmaLive website showed the extent of the damage.
“The hooded thugs, after completing their protest at the presidential palace, came here where they caused damage,” a report on SigmaLive said. “Dozens of our colleagues who were working at that time were attacked by the cowardly mob that infiltrated our building.”
“The attack on Sigma is a blow to democracy and the rule of law, which is not tolerated,” Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades tweeted. “The state will respond to those who ignore the laws. The health, safety of our citizens and our democracy will not be left in the hands of irresponsible citizens,” he added.
In an official statement later, Anastasiades said lives were threatened and property destroyed.
“Above all, however, the marginal elements thought that they would blackmail our Republic,” he said.
“The state is not threatened or blackmailed by anyone, let alone individuals, who, citing irrational conspiracy theories, try to lead the country to the Middle Ages. The state will respond strictly to those who ignore the laws. The health, the safety of the citizens and our democracy will not be left in the hands of angry and irresponsible citizens.”
Cyprus keen to accelerate vaccination among young people
The rise in COVID-19 infections and the low rate of vaccination among young people aged 18 to 30 has prompted Cyprus to adopt new measures, including mandatory vaccination, aimed at promoting and accelerating its vaccination rollout, especially among young adults.
At the forefront of the new measures is the “SafePass” policy in place since July 9, whereby citizens aged 12 or older are obliged to possess and present either a vaccination certificate with at least one dose — including completion of a three-week post-vaccination period — or proof that a person has contracted COVID-19 in the last 6 months, or a negative PCR or rapid test with a 72-hour validity period.
The SafePass must be presented by employees and customers entering an establishment, be it their workplace, a restaurant or bar.
In addition, the provision of free rapid antigen tests will be abolished as of August 1 in an effort to exert pressure on unvaccinated citizens either to become vaccinated or pay for a PCR or rapid test every 72 hours.