COVID19: Shopping malls angry over shutdown

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Shopping malls to close under stricter lockdown measures have accused the government of taking ill-timed decisions after a catalogue of mistakes in managing the coronavirus outbreak.

Under new restrictions, from Friday all shopping malls will have to close over Christmas until 31 December.

In comments to website Stockwatch, Nicosia Mall General Manager George Georgiou said the government has now resorted to closing malls after not acting in targeting high-risk facilities such as care homes.

“As a result, they are now targeting the malls, which have not reported any cases, in their final attempt to bring the virus under control,” said Georgiou.

“The Government’s decisions clearly serves certain financial interests. How is it possible to keep all other shops open, including department stores, and suspend only the operation of shopping malls.”

Georgiou said that the holiday season accounts for 30% of the annual turnover of malls, arguing they have already lost 20% of their turnover because of the first lockdown which saw malls closed during easter.

“The vast majority of businesses will not be able to bounce back if the Christmas season is lost, while a large number of people will find themselves unemployed.”

He said Nicosia Mall has a turnover of €130 mln during December with 1,200 people employed there.

My Mall Limassol’s executive director, Andreas Hadjimitsis said that Limassol businesses active in shopping malls will find themselves in an even tighter spot.

“The government’s latest decision will inflict a huge cost on us, as their decision comes just 10 days after we were allowed to reopen following the local lockdown in Limassol.

“When businesses were told we could reopen, they had to restock their businesses. The stock which now will remain on the shelves,” said Hadjimitsis.

He said that compensation given by the government to businesses affected is ‘peanuts’ as shops in malls will lose 65% of their revenue as a result of remaining closed during Easter and Christmas.

Hadjimitsis argued that the government is promoting unfair competition with its decision to only close malls while all other stores are allowed to continue to operate.

Limassol businesses feel the government should treat them differently as they recently suffered a two-week local lockdown.

Limassol’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry believes the district (along with Paphos) should be “excluded from the measures, contributing to the sense of justice that every citizen and district is treated equally”.

According to data presented on Wednesday by Dr George Nikolopoulos, member of the government’s COVID committee, showed a steep increase of cases in Famagusta, while Larnaca and Nicosia are of high concern.

The 14-day cumulative notification rate for Famagusta has risen to 613.5 per 100,000 inhabitants from 452.3 in the previous study released a week ago.

Cases in Nicosia are also increasing dangerously as the capital now has a 14-day cumulative notification rate of 475.1 per 100,000 up from 335.1.

Larnaca data has risen to 412.1 from 376, while Paphos is last with 140.5 per 100,000 inhabitants, up from 123.

Limassol has a 14-day cumulative notification rate of 273.5 per 100,000, down from 428.7.

With the exception of Paphos, all districts are far above the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s benchmark 150 per 100,000.