The complaints made by the representatives of the restaurant and café owners about the health protocols that have to be followed were understandable, to an extent, although they should not have expected anything else. This is the era of ‘rule by decree’, in which the government imposes illiberal measures without being obliged to offer any justification other than that it is protecting public health.
So it opened restaurants and cafés, but only if they can provide outdoor seating; if the outdoor area has any form of roof it has to be open on two, updated from three sides. It has also set a limit on the number of people per table (eight including children) and, quite ludicrously, decreed that people must keep their face masks on, except when ‘actively eating or drinking.’ Although this last measure was changed later in the day after consultations with owners.
The swift move by the government was correct. Would people want such a mask stress when they go out for a meal with friends, which is meant to be an enjoyable activity? Would it even have been possible to enjoy dinner if you are constantly worried about wearing your mask? The head of an association representing owners of eateries and cafes said, “the new protocol is an attempt to sabotage the reopening of restaurants,” and there appeared to be some truth in this.
The government announced the opening of restaurants and cafés last Friday because it was under tremendous pressure from the owners, who had been given assurance they would reopen on March 16. Of course, the epidemiological picture which the government constantly cites to justify its restrictions did not justify the opening – there are more cases per day now than there were when the lockdown was imposed last December.
This was probably the reason the government decided to keep gymnasiums closed for another two weeks and to close Limassol primary schools for the same period. Is the government protecting public health, as it claims to be doing, by stopping children going to school while allowing their parents to frequent restaurants and cafés until 11pm every day?
And if there is such a big problem in Limassol that the government decided to close down all primary schools why has it allowed cafés and restaurants to open there? Is there any scientific evidence suggesting seven- and eight-year-olds are more likely to transmit the virus than adults? There is none, and with its Limassol decisions the government has made a mockery of its claim that decrees are determined by the epidemiological situation.