TRNC sacks health minister, citing pandemic

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) has dismissed Health Minister Ali Pilli in a cabinet shuffle approved by Prime Minister Ersan Saner, Duvar news site reported on Saturday.

Pilli has been replaced by Ünal Üstel, who was serving as TRNC transportation minister, the site said, while national-conservative National Unity Party lawmaker Resmiye Canaltay will be stepping in as new transportation minister.

Saner, in a statement he released on Saturday, thanked Pilli for his services as health minister while stressing the toll of the coronavirus pandemic on the island.

“The pandemic, which has affected the world for almost one year, has come to greatly affect life in our country,’’ Saner said. “At this point, I found it suitable that a changing of the guard would be beneficial for both Mr. Pilli and our country.’’ 

Saner said the TRNC’s goal was to overcome the pandemic and attain higher economic growth.

Earlier this month, Pillisaid that at least 16 people had contracted the UK variant of the coronavirus in the TRNC.

A spike in COVID-19 infection rates in the TRNC earlier this year prompted the Health Ministry to increase compulsory quarantine to 10 days.

The TRNC’s tourism sector, upon which the country greatly relies, has been hit hard by the pandemic.  The country’s largest hotel chain, the Merit Group, in January announced an indefinite shutdown.

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