By Nick Theodoulou and Antigoni Pitta
The employers and industrialists’ federation (OEV) said on Thursday that further delays in allowing the opening up of restaurants and cafes will be “catastrophic” and is causing great uncertainty.
“Staff are being taken out of suspension, orders have been placed and deliveries have begun for food and raw materials, with preparations culminating during the three-day weekend,” the announcement said.
Cyprus is stuck in limbo as the more generous than expected peeling back of restrictive measures which were reportedly set to take place on March 16 are now up in the air after this week’s rise in cases of the virus.
After a flurry of meetings between the president, the government’s advisors, the health minister and private unions the situation remains murky at best as the announcement of any new measures was delayed from Wednesday to Friday.
“The government’s decision to not go ahead with the relaxations is definitely correct as otherwise it would have been a step backwards, since the situation is currently so serious,” Haris Armeftis, pulmonologist and president of the private doctors’ union, told Politis radio on Thursday morning.
“The situation is getting out of control… relaxations are the last thing we should be thinking about,” he added.
But businesses directly affected further opening delays are not convinced.
“The way we see it is that if we don’t open on the 16th, we should receive substantial support from the state,” head of the restaurant and entertainment establishment owners’ association (Pasika) Fanos Leventis told Cybc on Thursday morning. “Many have no other options left.”
He added that the government needs to seriously consider how it will support this sector and make an announcement soon.
“Otherwise, we will go out and protest. People cannot take it anymore,” he said.
The experts and government face a delicate balancing act: the lifting of some restrictive measures has been promised to the public but concerns over the epidemiological picture and hospitalisations has spooked the government’s coronavirus advisory team.
It is understood that the experts are particularly concerned as to under which conditions restaurants, bars and cafes may reopen – if at all – and a major topic of discussion which has taken place is requiring patrons to have proof of a negative result from a rapid test within the last 72 hours.
But local media reported that the proposal is not gaining much traction due to logistical and legal issues it may cause and while it appears that at the political level there is a strong desire to grant people a pressure release – in the form of being able to go to cafes and so on – at the moment, nothing is certain.
There was cautious optimism following President Nicos Anastasiades’ Tuesday morning meeting with the advisory team for the next phase of gradual relaxations but later brought into question on Tuesday evening when the health ministry announced 420 new cases had been recorded. Some 415 cases were reported onWednesday.
The cases, an increase of 68 and a 0.35 per cent higher positivity rate over Monday, set a gloomy backdrop for the council of ministers meeting on Wednesday.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou is understood to be closely monitory the transmission chains which have developed.
The contact tracing team is now handling major chains at the workplace environment, family settings and at schools.