Ban on crowded bars, clubs and churches

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Cyprus social and cultural habits are under the microscope after a government decree has banned going out to crowded restaurants, bars, and the cinema while church services also fall under the restriction on mass gatherings.

A Cyprus Health Ministry decree was issued Wednesday banning mass gatherings of more than 75 people in a closed private or public space until the end of March.

According to the decree a “single, closed space, private or public” also applies to theatres, cinemas, restaurants, cafeterias, bars, ice cream parlours and event rooms.

In an explanatory note accompanying the decree, the ministry clarified that the ceiling of 75 people was set after recommendations by the World Health Organisation and the European Centre for Disease Control on the basis of population data and epidemiological criteria.

The ban applies to any closed single area used for catering, recreation or rest which is located in a shopping mall, supermarket, hotel, hospital, airport, army camp or other private or public space.

It does not apply to:

(a)  Gatherings of more than 75 people as part of their daily and professional duties and activities such as offices, companies, factories etc.

(b)  Where movement within the specific space such as shopping malls, supermarkets and places where visitors move and do not remain gathered in the same space for a long time.

Phanos Leventis, of the Leisure and Entertainment Establishment Owners Association, said that bars and restaurants are being hit by what he called “hasty measures” taken without consultation with any stakeholder.

“The government’s unilateral measures raise other questions about who will pay for the damage done to businesses related to payroll, social security payments, rent…Already, many venues have cancelled large events like weddings and concerts”.

The Cyprus Church also reacted negatively after Minister of Health Constantinos Ioannou, clarified that the decree applies to gatherings at sermons while calling people to avoid taking the holy communion.

The Holy Synod, displeased by the ban, said on Wednesday it would hold mass without fail.

“It would be blasphemous to think that the body and blood of Christ could transmit any disease or virus,” said a Synod statement.

There is also confusion over how this decree will be enforced or policed by the authorities.