It would be unfair to exclude shops in malls from reopening during the first stage of relaxations, the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Keve) has said.

Malls closed in early December as part of the government’s attempts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with other retailers not situated in malls allowed to operate until the beginning of the January lockdown.

Keve argued that there is no study proving that shopping malls are hotspots for virus transmission, and no other EU country has shut the entire retail industry.

As a result of measures and lockdowns, Keve said, many shops located in malls have endured massive losses in the normally profitable periods of 2020 like Easter and Christmas, and January 2021. This has increased insecurity and uncertainty among shopkeepers and mall owners.

The decision to not allow all shops, regardless of location, to open at the same time is therefore anti-competitive and would mean even more losses for shops located in malls, Keve said.

The chamber proposed an increase in health and safety measures that if followed, could allow malls to reopen without increasing the risk of transmission. These include regular rapid tests for employees and more frequent checks to ensure shops adhere to rules.

It was also suggested that shoppers are more consistently monitored to prevent queues and crowds, proposing social distancing and temperature checks upon entry and exit.

Keve estimated that in keeping with safety measures and checks, shopping malls could and should reopen at the same time as other shops and urged the government to reconsider in order to maintain an equal market for all.