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COVID19: Cyprus begins lockdown exit by opening shops

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Cyprus will begin to lift strict lockdown measures from May 4 to get its economy back on track after a two-month shutdown to stem the coronavirus outbreak, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said Wednesday.

“The distance we have to travel, unfortunately, remains great. Nevertheless, the progress that continues to be made allows us to implement the first phases for a gradual easing of restrictive measures,” said Anastasiades in a televised address.

He said the government will end the lockdown in several stages 17 days apart to ensure there is no spike in new COVID-19 cases.

The first two phases of relaxations will begin on May 4 and May 21, said Anastasiades.

As a first step, the key construction industry, retail shops and markets will be allowed to go back to work but not shopping malls.

The public sector will also be open to serve but under strict social distancing rules.

During the lockdown, Cypriots were restricted to one essential daily trip outside the home with which needed to be approved via a mobile text message.

This restriction has been eased to three daily essential outings while the curfew remains in place but will start later at 10 pm rather than 9 pm until 6 am.

From May 21 all restrictions on free movement will be lifted, said Anastasiades.

Open-air restaurants, cafes and bars will be able to re-open from May 21, as will barber shops, hair salons and beauty parlours.

Parks, marinas, playgrounds remain closed, but people will be allowed to go swimming for exercises (no more than two people).

Back to the beach

Cypriots will be allowed to visit the beach for recreation from June 1.

School pupils in their final year at state and private schools will also be going back into the classroom from May 11.

A ban on places of worship has also been lifted, visits are allowed as long as they’re not more than 10 people present. Attending religious services will be allowed from June 1.

There was no mention of when hotels and airports will open, although this will be after phase two ends on 8 June.

Seaports will be operating again from June 1, but passengers will not be able to disembark from cruise ships.

Cyprus is following other EU countries in gradually lifting restrictions as the epidemiological data has allowed it to do so.

Anastasiades announced the lifting of restrictions after Wednesday’s cabinet meeting approved a staggered plan based on the advice of health experts.

“The cabinet decided to lift a number of restrictive measures that will allow a gradual return to acceptable lifestyles, while not jeopardising the sacrifices we have made,” said Anastasiades.

Cyprus has got a grip on the COVID-19 pandemic by acting swiftly to introduce social distancing measures and closing down non-essential businesses within days of the outbreak on March 9.

The total number of coronavirus cases in the Cyprus Republic on Wednesday was 843 and 15 deaths.

Since mid-March, all non-essential businesses closed, only Cyprus residents were allowed in the country while a commercial flight ban is enforced until mid-May.

The Cyprus Republic has reported 837 coronavirus cases and 15 deaths.