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Coronavirus: relaxations ‘an empty gesture’ businesses say (Updated)

restaurant owners protest

Restaurant owners took to the streets on Friday over the prolonged closure of their businesses while those allowed to reopen from Monday such as gyms and dance schools, called the relaxations an “empty gesture”.

The restaurant owners held a protest outside the presidential palace after the government announced that the sector would not be allowed to resume operation until after March 16.

Members of the association of restaurant and entertainment venues owners, Pasika, saying they were in compliance with a ban on gatherings, drove in a convoy to the presidential palace and started beeping their horns. They also hoisted banners on the gate.

Some of the banners said: “Shame and disgrace,” and “If you cut our revenue, just tells us where to get the money to cover our loan instalments.”

Under the current decrees to contain the spread of coronavirus, restaurants can only offer take away and delivery services, while entertainment businesses such as clubs and live music venues remain closed since last March.

Head of Pasika, Phanos Leventis, said that they were primarily asking for “a proper way” of reopening their businesses arguing that restrictions should be such so as not to make the operation of these venues unsustainable. They are also calling for the proper management of the financial burdens that the leisure centres have shouldered in the form of debts.

“No one is talking about profit at this stage, the goal is for businesspeople to be able to manage their debts,” Leventis said.

According to Leventis the entire industry has been victimised by the behaviour of few reckless business owners. “Anyone who violates (the measures) should be punished according to the gravity of the violation,” he said.

Leventis said that it was of great importance for their businesses to reopen and not close again, calling on the government to allow the opening on the announced date, March 16, “and not a day later”. The sector will not withstand to remain closed for longer, he said.

Pasika representatives delivered a memo addressed to the president in which they called, among other things, for ways to suspend bank loan instalments and for access to simple lending procedures at negligible cost with the state as guarantor.

They are also calling on the president to annul his referral of the law that provides for the suspension of evictions arguing they would like to enter a dialogue with property owners for a peaceful and agreed solution to the rent problem.

It also calls for “sound consultation” on the new proposed legislation governing the operation of recreation centres as well as consultation with the government on the reopening of recreation centres.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Thursday when announcing the next phase of relaxations to the measures against the spread of coronavirus, that it was expected that restaurants would be allowed to resume full operations after March 16, depending on the epidemiological situation.

 

In the meantime, professional sectors slated to resume operations on Monday said the next phase of relaxations are not exactly helping them get back to business due to the very small numbers of people they can serve.

Head of the gym owners’ association, Michalis Shekeris, told the Cyprus News Agency that the relaxations do not actually allow gyms to resume operations.

What they are basically allowed to now do, he said, is the possibility of providing personal training indoors. He explained that they were already allowed to do this outdoors and now they simply can do it indoors.

He added that for most gyms that operate with subscriptions and provide fitness services to groups of people, it was not profitable to resume operations. Shekeris expressed hope that all gyms would be able to resume operations “at practical and financial level” on March 16.

Dance and drama school owners too said the relaxations were “an empty gesture.”

Lina Constantinidou, head of the Dance Culture Pafos that represents all dance schools in the district told CNA that most of them had small schools, meaning that they can only have one student at a time. “It is a joke, tragic even,” she said.

According to the latest measures, as regards training in indoor areas, only two people are allowed, including the trainer, in areas up to 80 square metres. In spaces between 80 sq. m. and 200 sq. m., the physical presence of three people is allowed (including the trainer) and of five people in spaces over 200 sq. m.

Music schools, private tutoring centres and other afternoon classes may resume operations but only with the physical presence of up to two people, including the teacher/instructor.

 

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