COVID19: Cyprus economy begins to unlock

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Cyprus on Monday began to unlock its COVID-battered economy as construction and retail opened for business, amid government warnings to closely follow health guidelines.

Moving on from Monday’s first stage out of lockdown will depend on epidemiological data mirroring people’s behaviour towards the new landscape.

While expecting an inevitable increase in cases with the relaxations of measures, authorities want to avoid a spike in cases which would put a strain on the health system

Speaking to state radio CyBC on Monday, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said the authorities were ‘on stand-by’ but not worried.

He said a rise in new cases was expected with the easing of measures but what was important was to ensure it remains manageable.

Key parts of the economy have been restarted with civil servants returning to work, shops and construction sites reopening, after 50 days of lockdown.

Retail businesses can also reopen with the exception of those in shopping malls and department stores.

Restaurants and coffee shops will remain closed, apart from the ones with a takeaway and delivery service.

Open-air markets and car washes are also part of the first stage out of lockdown.

Restrictions regarding the operation of public and private hospitals have been partially lifted with hospitals allowed to receive cold cases up to 60% of their capacity. Dental services are fully operational once again.

Courts are also to resume operations, allowing for the registration of non-urgent cases such as lawsuits.

During the lockdown, courts would only tend to criminal cases and lockdown violations.

Reportedly, a total of 18,000 businesses in the retail sector and 8,400 in the construction sector are to reopen. Together the two sectors account for about 70,000 employees.

The Labour Ministry said it would be keeping a close eye on businesses to assure that they are abiding by regulations and guidelines.

Labour Minister Zeta Emilianides said her Ministry is ready to proceed with inspections of businesses reopening.

Speaking to CNA, the Minister said that almost 100 civil servants have been trained to inspect shops and businesses.

The Ministry has also produced a series of guidelines for the health and safety of employees and the public, as certain types of businesses and construction sites.

Opening of hair salons, shopping malls, restaurants and hotels will come at a later date, depending on the current epidemiological situation.

“We will proceed with inspections on a daily basis” the Minister added, noting that it is important to abide by the security and health measures.

The government has mapped out a four-phase roadmap for Cyprus will follow until mid-July to end the strict lockdown that the country has been under since the outbreak almost two months ago.

The final stage in lifting all lockdown restriction will be introduced mid-July.