COVID19: Cyprus economic lockdown to be eased from May

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Cyprus’ cabinet has approved a strategic plan for slowly lifting restrictive measures to combat the COVID-19 outbreak for some businesses to open in May, but the economy will not be in full swing until 2021.

Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides told CNA the strategy to get the economy back on track and lifting social distancing measures depends on the epidemiological data.

The approved framework includes three stages covering a timeline until the end of 2021, Petrides said.

He urged everyone to respect the restrictive measures, particularly during the Easter holidays, so that the plan to restart the economy can be realised.

“Essentially, with the pandemic in progress and the economic crisis escalating significantly, quite a few EU countries are planning their strategy for a gradual lifting of restrictions,” Petrides said.

The European Commission has issued guidelines for a gradual exit from a general lockdown, so that member states can coordinate to avoid a negative impact between them and in order for the single market to operate smoothly.

Petrides underlined that “a healthy and functional economy is a prerequisite for a functional health system.”

The strategic plan contains three main stages, while the possibility of transitioning from one stage to the other is largely determined on the epidemiological data, he said.

The first stage involves the period of implementation of restrictive measures and the financial support schemes to deal with COVID-19 repercussions.

Stage two has to do with the gradual opening of businesses which, if the epidemiological data allow for it, will gradually begin around the beginning of May in sectors of key importance for the economy.

Curve must flatten

“Epidemiological data must be met for the gradual opening of businesses, for example, the flattening of the curve of cases, the capacity of the health system and systematic monitoring done by way of conducting a large number of tests,” the Finance Minister said.

According to Petrides, another four criteria will have to be taken into account in determining the strategy in choosing the sectors for a gradual lifting of restrictive measures.

In particular, the danger of COVID-19 infections, the significance of the relevant economic sector and the possibility of imposing and maintaining safety measures.

He said measures may change according to different geographic areas, groups of citizens, social life sectors and economic sector.

It is likely that construction will be among the first sectors to get the green light but non-essential businesses that host large numbers of people may be at the back of the queue.

The interdependence between businesses and the economic sectors as well as social interactions will also be taken into account.

The third stage has to do with restarting the economy and it covers the period between September 2020 and December 2021.

“The strategy must be flexible and adaptable depending on the epidemiological data, allowing for economic activity to take place without taking unnecessary risks in health matters.”

It will include supporting viable businesses, growth of the digital technology sector and supporting those who will maintain more jobs, as well as stimulating demand.

A special ministerial committee, with the support of a steering committee, will prepare and submit the strategy framework and an action plan to the cabinet by the end of April.

Talking to Sigma TV, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said that EU health authorities have advised him that talk of a substantial lifting of measures should only take place once two-thirds of the population acquire antibodies for the virus.

“What does this mean; Either two-thirds of the population gets infected or a vaccine is discovered so that at least two-thirds of the population can develop antibodies. We have a long way ahead of us before this happens.”