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Coronavirus: Pressure from big business kept us closed say small shops

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Pressure from big business has kept small retail outlets closed until February 8, the union of small shopkeepers Povek claimed on Thursday.

It said that, although all the information filtered down by the government prior to Wednesday’s announcement regarding the easing of measures suggested the reopening of the retail trade in two distinct phases, this did not happen.

In statements released to the media on Thursday, Povek claimed that “large commercial enterprises such as malls pressured the government into reopening their businesses at the same time as small shops.”

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Wednesday that from February 8 all retail businesses, including department stores and malls, will reopen to the public.

Povek said that a fairer scenario would have been to allow small shops to reopen on February 1 before shopping malls.

The organisation also added that their position is shared by the government’s epidemiological team, as “larger crowds in a single closed environment such as malls would pose an increased health risk for the general population.”

Povek also claimed that the government’s decision to reopen shopping malls earlier was taken with financial and not health reasons in mind.

“Small shops and malls should coexist, but apparently rules and laws have not been applied to the two distinct entities in the same way,” Povek said.

When called to comment on the issue by the Cyprus Mail, Dr Petros Karayiannis, member of the scientific advisory team and professor of microbiology/molecular virology at the University of Nicosia Medical School, said the epidemiological team will convene again in the upcoming days, as the matter needs to be properly addressed.

Povek also called on the finance ministry to speed up the procedures related to the government’s support schemes for businesses.

“The state needs to urgently address the issue of rents and evictions, as well as extend the support schemes for small businesses,” the union said.

“Many of them are facing serious financial problems and they need to be helped as soon as possible to salvage their financial viability.”

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