COVID19: Exiting Lockdown II one-way street to save economy

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Despite scientists expecting COVID-19 cases to increase due to relaxing lockdown, it is an irreversible process as the economy gets back in the driving seat.

Scientists are preparing their recommendations for the next phase of relaxations to come into effect from Monday.

They are assessing epidemiological data and society and business fatigue from being under restrictions for almost a year since the outbreak last March.

Progress of Cyprus’ vaccination program also plays a role, as experts want to protect the country’s health system from being overburdened once more.

The team of scientists advising the government on handling coronavirus had a preliminary meeting with Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou. They expressed their concern over increased transmission within families and workplaces.

Local media reports the majority of scientists do support a gradual and controlled lifting of measures.

But the ban on cinemas, theatres, gyms, organised sports, private tutoring classes could be lifted.

There is hesitation in giving the go-ahead for reopening the hospitality and entertainment sectors.

With the carnival period looming (2-14 March), authorities fear that opening up restaurants and cafes during festivities would endanger progress in controlling the virus.

It is understood scientists have suggested allowing the hospitality industry to reopen on 15 March.

A scenario for restaurants to open on 8 March and cafes on 15 March was not tabled.

However, hospitality and entertainment businesses have already turned up the heat, exerting pressure on the government to allow them to operate sooner than mid-March.

High schools

Information leaked after Ioannou’s meeting with health advisors on Monday did not shed light on whether high school students, who have yet to return to their classrooms, will be able to do so.

However, have scientists could recommend that children go back to school as they tend to gather after their online classes.

Requesting permission to leave the house via SMS will continue, but they are expected to increase from two to three.

The night-time curfew will also remain in force but will be rolled back to start at 10 pm instead of 9 pm.

Concerned over the increase of cases within families and workplaces, scientists have urged the Health Ministry to step up efforts to inform people about personal protection measures.

Scientists will present their final recommendations to President Nicos Anastasiades and the coronavirus ministerial committee on Wednesday.

The second national lockdown was imposed on 10 January when the entire retail sector was shut down, civil servants went home, and businesses reduced their on-site workforce to 20% after daily infections peaked at 907 on December 29.

Relaxations were introduced on 1 and 8 February, which saw 50% of employees going back to work, children returning to primary school, the retail sector, along with hairdressers re-open for business.

Churchgoers were allowed to attend services as long as they do not exceed 50 people at a time.

Cyprus has confirmed 33,391 COVID-19 cases and 230 deaths.

There are currently 76 people in a COVID ward, out of which 26 are in ICU.