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Coronavirus: President warns only compliance with relaxations can end total lockdown (Update 4)

President Nicos Anastasiades addressing the nation on Wednesday night (PIO)

President Nicos Anastasiades on Wednesday announced the blueprint for easing the lockdown including upping daily outings to three, civil servants returning to work while the construction sector and smaller shops can reopen and final-year students can return to class

He said if scientific data allows, all restrictions on movement would be lifted from May 21. The curfew, however, is still in place but now lasts from 10pm to 6am and the SMS system is still mandatory.

“The danger, I repeat, has not gone away. As scientists emphasise, the coronavirus will be with us for a long time to come,” the president warned.

In his speech, he took a more positive tone but stressed the importance of the public’s compliance with measures going forward.

“Any progress or danger of regression depends on everyone’s behaviour,” he said during a live TV address, adding that there was still some distance to cover.

“It is not by chance that we are wary of accepting a large number of requests from business representatives,” Anastasiades said.

Some countries, especially in Europe, had eased restrictions recently and had witnessed a spike in cases and more deaths from Covid-19.

“Countries that have adopted the de-escalation of measures in order to achieve the resumption of the economy earlier, record a new escalation of the cases and a setback from the successful course they initially recorded,” he said.

Provided the epidemiological data allow, all movement restrictions will be lifted across the board and barbers and hairdressers will open later next month. Restaurants and cafes will also open under certain conditions, mainly that customers can only dine outdoors.

The president said the cabinet on Wednesday approved the first two phases of lifting restrictions starting May 4 and May 21, respectively.

The first phase, beginning May 4, would see an increase in the allowed number of outings from one to three, the opening of the construction sector and all its supporting businesses, opening of retail shops but not malls, and the opening of outdoor markets and of travel agents.

All civil servants will return to work apart from those belonging to vulnerable groups and those responsible for children. Their time schedule will be decided later.

People will also be allowed to visit places of worship provided the maximum number is 10. The ban on large weddings and funerals remain the same.

Schools will reopen only to students who are in their final year, in both the public and private sector. The education minister will make an announcement in the coming days as regards younger classes.

Exercising and swimming are also allowed but parks and play areas will remain closed.

From May 21 outside hospitality industries will be allowed to resume operations, on the basis of strict abidance with instructions from the health ministry.

Athletes will be allowed to use open installations and from May 18 team training will also be allowed based on protocols. The use of changing rooms is banned.

As for the third phase, beginning June 1, most notably people may go to the beach while important sites such as museums, libraries and archaeological sites can open.

In regards to vulnerable persons, two categories of those deemed most at risk has been detailed by the health ministry. The first group may go to work as long as they do not interact with the public or crowds of people, while the second group is advised to only work from home.

The first group are those, for example, those: over the age of 65, BMI > 40 and pregnant or breastfeeding women.

The second group, and considered most at risk are those, for example, with: pre-existing chronic respiratory conditions, cardiac arrhythmia and permanent use of pacemakers.

Anastasiades said that he felt proud of the nation: “Especially for all you, for the admirable patience and discipline in measures unprecedented for citizens who by nature have learned to live free.”

The softly-softly approach seeks to strikes a balance between resuscitating economic activity and containing the virus.

“I also want you all to feel proud, because once more our small nation has become an example of a successful handling of yet another crisis,” he said.

He congratulated the hard work of health professionals and the patience of the population.

“As more of us begin going back to work, the need to strictly abide by social distancing and using masks – where necessary – and abiding to the hygiene rules is even more urgent,” said Dr Marios Loizou earlier on Wednesday.

From May 4:

Economy

  • The construction sector will be opened up and all the restrictions in related sectors will be lifted.
  • All retail businesses will reopen, with the exception of department stores and malls.
  • Public markets and bazaars will reopen.
  • Tourism and travel agencies will reopen.

Movement

  • People may take three trips outside a day, up from one, provided they receive permission via SMS.
  • The curfew now lasts from 10pm to 6am.
  • People may attend places of worship, provided the number of people does not exceed 10. Large weddings, funerals and christenings are still forbidden

Public sector

  • All workers from the public sector will return to work.
  • Those in vulnerable groups or who must look after their children (aged 15 or under) are exempt and can work from home.
  • The courts may operate again, in accordance to decisions taken by the supreme court.

From May 11:

  • Students in the final school year can go back to class.

 From May 21:

  • All restrictions on movement will be lifted if the data allows
  • People can go to parks, play areas, squares, marinas and other open spaces provided they are not in groups of over 10.
  • Barber shops and hairdressers may reopen.
  • Outside cafes and such recreational areas can reopen.

 From June 1:

  • People may go to the beach.
  • Ports and activities therein may take place, except as regards people disembarking from cruise ships.
  • Museums, libraries and archaeological sites can reopen.
  • Betting shops can open.

Anastasiades congratulated health professionals and the population for their patience.

The lockdown, which began on March 24, was initially meant to only last three weeks – meaning it should have originally expired on April 13.

At the time there were 155 confirmed Covid-19 cases islandwide. Now there are over 800.

The unprecedented lockdown has lasted just over five weeks.

All schools were closed from March 13 and was only meant to last until March 20. Some private schools had closed earlier.



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