COVID19: Hospitality sector awaits state help to survive mini-lockdown

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A night-time curfew until November 30 imposed by authorities to flatten the second wave of coronavirus could see hundreds of restaurants and bars facing closure, after surviving lockdown in March.

As the overnight curfew imposed earlier on Limassol and Paphos now applying to the entire country from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. with bars, cafes, and restaurants having to close daily at 10.30 p.m.

While the government intends to protect the economy from another lockdown, employers and businesses affected are waiting for officials to announce support packages.

Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou is expected to announce financial support for employees on Thursday with the Finance Minister announcing measures to help businesses cover their ‘operation expenses’.

The new restrictions came just hours after official data revealed that unemployment in October almost doubled compared to the same month last year.

Cyprus registered unemployed spiked 90% in October to 31,487 from 16,5444 in 2019, as the pandemic takes its toll on the labour market with hospitality and services taking the heaviest blow.

Statistical Service data shows registered unemployed are mainly in the sector of accommodation and food services where unemployment rose by 5,283 from October 2019.

Retail was also badly hit with the number of unemployed rising by 2,441 on last year.

Employers are concerned over the impact the new set of measures will have on businesses.

Michalis Antoniou, Director General of the Cyprus Federation of Employers and Industrialists (OEV), said that although measures were inevitable, they will take their toll on the economy.

“The effects on the food industry having to close at 10:30 pm coupled with the ban on movement from 11 pm to 5 am in all districts, will be similar to Limassol and Paphos where the measure has been in place. In these districts, restaurants and other hospitality establishments saw an average 40% reduction in their turnover”.

Antoniou said: “if these specific measures do not yield positive results, as President Anastasiades said, we will be seeing stricter measures, which will spell disaster for the economy”.

Phanos Leventis, of the Leisure and Entertainment Establishment Owners Association, said that bars and restaurants are being hit by exhaustive measures.

“Extending restrictive measures to all districts will be disastrous for the catering industry, which employs the largest number of employees.”

He warned that “if businesses are not satisfied with the government’s support measures, they will close down, creating large numbers of unemployed people.”