COVID-19: President meets advisors to trigger Stage II out of lockdown

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President Nicos Anastasiades meets his advisory epidemiological team on Friday who are expected to give the go-ahead for launching phase two of relaxing lockdown measures.

The government said it will only take the next step if the scientific data allows it by showing coronavirus is being contained.

COVID-19 cases have been kept under double figures since the lockdown was eased on May 4 with the return of construction workers and retail shops opening.

This will allow for the opening of hospitality establishments such as outdoor cafes and restaurants. Epidemiologists will also present Anastasiades with their final recommendation regarding the opening of all school classes on 21 May when stage two is scheduled.

Under the schedule already announced, the second stage – May 21 to June 8 – will see all schools get back to business, though with ‘social distancing’ and fewer students in classrooms.

Students will be split into two groups going to school on a rotation system.

However, reactions from parents, students and teachers have made the government hesitate to announce that schools are to reopen.

Earlier last week, member of the team advising the president, molecular virologist Dr Leontios Kostrikis expressed surprise when told the government was to open schools on 21 May.

“We need to take slow, steady and considered steps. We must not make any rash move because if something goes wrong, it won’t be easy to fix,” Kostrikis said.

Other members of the committee had said that it is safe for children to return to school as they are less likely to get ill and pass on the virus.

The president had to intervene amid rumours of disagreement between the government and the scientific advisory team.

“We’ve always said that all stages of relaxing measures would be subject to the epidemiological data at hand and the advice of the epidemiological advisory team,” said Anastasiades.

Based on the feedback from the scientists, the government will finalise the details for the next post-lockdown phase.

The government has also sought to address parents and teachers’ concerns arguing that the situation in schools will be monitored through thousands of COVID-19 tests.

The state is to test some 13,000 students and 7,000 teachers.

The scheme started on Monday when final year students were the first to return to their classrooms ahead of their exams.

Also, masks, disinfectants and thermometers will be available said authorities earlier this week.

Under the general roadmap already announced, the next phase will also see, barbershops, hair and beauty salons open for business.

Restrictions on outdoor movement will be lifted, and the night-time curfew abolished, allowing people to move freely without having to ask for permission.

Gatherings of up to 10 persons will be permitted.

As of 1 June, libraries, museums, archaeological sites and betting shops are to open.

The ports will likewise start operating on that date, but passengers will not be allowed to disembark.

Hotels and airports will remain closed until the third phase is launched.