Cyprus is now being rewarded for the prompt and drastic action the government took to restrict the spread of the coronavirus. The tough lockdown regime imposed in mid-March is now paying dividends with the island having all but returned to normality – airports will open on Tuesday – and, most importantly, being considered a safe place. We might not be completely free of the coronavirus, but the daily confirmed cases have been very low even though the lockdown ended two weeks ago.
On Thursday, during an extended telephone conversation with President Anastasiades, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel “congratulated the president for Cyprus’ positive results and informed him that Cyprus is among the countries considered to be safe destinations for German tourists,” said the deputy government spokesman Panayiotis Sentonas. This endorsement by Merkel is a fantastic piece of news for Cyprus and our tourism industry, although it cannot be used as a slogan to advertise the island as a safe tourist destination. It is, however, a crystal-clear vote of confidence in Cyprus as a holiday destination.
This was not the only positive news for the tourism sector. According to online holiday rentals platform Clickstay, holidaymakers were showing increased confidence in travelling to Cyprus. In the past week 21 per cent of page views on Clickstay were for holiday apartments and villas in Cyprus. In the corresponding period in 2019 only seven per cent of page views were for accommodation on the island. This would suggest the news about Cyprus being a safe holiday destination is spreading.
Safety is the first thing most holidaymakers would be looking for and Cyprus is in a very good position. The number of coronavirus deaths has been extremely low, the health system has coped comfortably with confirmed cases, tracing has been effectively conducted and the percentage of testing is among the highest in the EU. The authorities did everything right and the overwhelming majority of people obeyed the decrees. Now we can reap the benefits of this very good work.
In this context, the government is correct to increase the penalties for businesses that violate the coronavirus decrees. Tough penalties, which are expected to be approved on Friday by the legislature, will force businesses to follow the rules, because some laxness had been reported at bars and cafes. With the threat of crippling fines and eventual suspension of the business, enterprises will obey the rules. The government, quite rightly, does not want to lose the ‘safe’ brand the island has justifiably earned and which will greatly assist the restart of the economy.