COVID19: Shopping malls claim victimised by safe pass

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Shopping malls are sounding the alarm as they see stores and businesses unable to cope following three lockdowns and ongoing restrictions such as the safe pass.

Senior management at shopping centres warned that many businesses are on the verge of going under while they feel the authorities are singling them out with the demand for visitors to carry a safe pass certificate.

Under the ‘safe pass’ regulation, visitors at shopping malls must carry a negative rapid test taken no longer than 72 hours old, proof of being vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine taken a minimum of three weeks earlier, and proof of recovering from the virus in the past six months.

In comments to news website Stockwatch on Friday, MyMall Limassol CEO Andreas Hadjimitsis said that lifting the lockdown has not gone far in boosting income as measures in place put people off from visiting malls.

“Within the first 10 days of opening from the third lockdown, stores saw their income reach just 30% compared to the same period last year,” said Hadjimitsis.

He argued that the government would have to step in with generous support packages to keep businesses going, as “one after the other is closing down permanently”.

Hadjimitsis noted that, unlike previous lockdowns, this time around, people avoided returning to malls due to the testing requirement, noting that police officers have exhausted their rigour on businesses over the past 15 months.

He argued that the government should loosen the grip on shopping and hospitality measures to attract customers.

Nicosia Mall General Manager George Georgiou said that despite stores reopening with sales and other offers, they had not seen the same response as they did last June and February when the first two lockdowns were lifted.

“The requirement to present a safe pass to enter a mall creates unequal treatment between retailers,” said Georgiou.

He said the measure “creates conditions of unfair competition, as stores in shopping malls have one set of restrictions and stores with the same retail items in other locations have a different set of restrictions”.

Georgiou questioned the logic behind having visitors tested every 72 hours and employees every second week based on the Health Ministry’s decree.

“Unfortunately, we are being targeted, once more, by the government. We ask authorities to extend the demand for a rapid test to a week.

“We also call on people to get vaccinated so that we can put an end to this nightmare,” said Georgiou.

A safe pass is not needed to visit a supermarket, hairdresser, bakery or kiosk.