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COVID19: Hospitality to open despite rise in cases

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Scientists met President Nicos Anastasiades on Tuesday, exactly a year after the first COVID-19 cases in Cyprus, as the country plans to reopen hospitality in the next step out of a second national lockdown.

Despite cases rising, Monday’s tally reached 352 with a test positivity rate of 0.86%, information coming from scientists and authorities is the next stage of lifting lockdown will go ahead on 16 March.

The next phase is to see restaurants and cafes reopen, with customers seated indoors and outdoors.

Restaurants could be allowed up to 75 indoors, with one customer allowed for every 3 square meters and 150 outdoors with one customer for every 2 square meters.

When it comes to gymnasium students, who have yet to return to their classrooms, things get complicated as scientists disagree on opening up society too fast.

The key indicator for easing measures is hospital admissions.

On Monday, the number of hospital COVID patients also rose, reaching 145, nearly double the figure that had stabilised a fortnight ago.

However, scientists are optimistic as the number, and the age of patients in ICU’s has dropped significantly compared to December.

The rise in new infections is widely attributed to more students returning to school, the retail sector opening and many people, particularly in Limassol, ignoring health and safety rules.

Experts are expected to give the green light for hospitality to reopen under strict protocols, with more conservative voices arguing that restaurants should only accommodate customers in outdoor facilities.

The second big question to be answered by scientists and authorities is whether the next phase of relaxation should include gymnasium students’ return to class.

Since lyceum and technical schools allowed students back, there has been a rise in infections and clusters.

Further relaxations for gyms and dance schools, currently allowed up to five at a time, will also be tabled along with relaxations for churchgoers and cinemas and theatres.

A 9 pm curfew is expected to be pushed back to 11 pm, but people will still need to send in an SMS to the text number 8998 to request permission to leave their home.

Reportedly, the number of SMS-approved movement will increase from two to three per day.

A second lockdown was imposed on January 10 after daily coronavirus cases soared to 907 on December 29.

Exiting the lockdown started in February when hairdressers and barbers were allowed to reopen, followed by non-essential shops and employees returning to offices.

The first lockdown came into effect on March 24 and gradually eased through May; a ban on commercial flights ended in June.