In a televised national address on Wednesday night, President Nicos Anastasiades presented the detailed plan of the first two phases of Cyprus’ lockdown exit plan, with the first phase, which will see a timid resumption of the economy and a small loosening of restrictions on individual freedoms, set to begin on May 4.
Anastasiades kicked off his speech stressing that nothing had changed since his last national address on April 16, when he said that the situation may be showing improvement, but there was still a long way to go.
“Today I will repeat with the same insistence that the distance still we have to cover, unfortunately, remains great,” Anastasiades said.
Nevertheless, he continued, the progress continuously being observed has allowed the island to move into the first phase of the strategy for the gradual lifting of restriction measures.
“I will never tire of repeating that any progress or the risk of regression depends on everyone's behaviour,” Anastasiades said.
The President expressed his pride for the responsibility shown by political forces and social partners, the excellence shown by scientists, the self-sacrifice that distinguished health professionals and all those at the front lines. He also praised the “admirable patience and discipline” of the public in abiding by the unprecedented measures.
“And I want you to feel just as proud because once again, thanks to everyone's efforts, our small homeland is becoming a reference country for the successful handling of the crisis.”
Decisions taken by the Cabinet for gradual exit from lockdown
“At today's meeting of the Council of Ministers and after taking into account the suggestions of the scientific team and the recommendations of the European Commission and the World Health Organization, the first two phases were decided to gradually remove restrictions, which begin on May 4 and 21 respectively,” Anastasiades said.
Phase one, implemented May 4
(i) As of May 4, restrictions on the construction sector and all similar business activities supporting it will be lifted.
(ii) All retail businesses reopen, except for shopping malls and department stores. The operation of resuming businesses will be governed by health and safety protocols as determined by the Ministries of Labour and Health.
(iii) Public markets, street vendors and bazaars resume, always subject to the relevant instructions of the Ministry of Health.
(iv) Tourist and travel agencies reopen.
B. Public Sector
As of May 4, the full breadth of the public sector will resume full operation, with the return of all employees to their workplaces. Only those who fall under vulnerable groups, as defined by a new revised list published by the Health Ministry, are excluded.
(i) Those employees who are responsible for the care of children up to the age of 15 will be allowed to remain home until the reopening of public and private schools.
During their absence they are obliged to perform any duties assigned to them online.
(ii) The same method will be used by people who belong to vulnerable groups and who will not return to work.
(iii) With the return of civil servants, it is possible for the courts to function in accordance with decisions to be taken by the Supreme Court on Thursday.
(i) Giving priority to the need for adequate preparation of graduates of public and private secondary schools, it was decided that they return to school on May 11.
The Minister of Education will make relevant announcements, as well as updates regarding all other levels of education. Until the full reopening of school facilities, online education will continue.
D. Public Health
As part of the process to resume the normal operation of public and private hospitals, restrictions will be partially lifted, effective on May 4, based on instructions that will follow by the Ministry of Health, while dental centers will be fully reopened.
E. Individual Freedoms
Effective from May 4,
(i) The number of movements each person is allowed will increase to three per day, while the SMS system will remain in place.
(ii) Curfew will be enforced at 10pm, one hour later than the current curfew time, until 6am.
(iii) Praying will be permitted in churches, mosques, and other places of worship, given that no more than 10 people are gathered at the space at the same time. The decree regarding weddings, baptisms and funerals will continue to apply.
From June 1, church services and other forms of religious worship will be allowed at places of worship and other religious sites, given that health protocols issued by the Health Ministry will be strictly adhered to.
The same measures will apply to weddings, baptisms and funerals.
(iii) Individual exercise (walking, swimming in the sea, cycling, etc.) is permitted in open spaces, on sidewalks and sidewalks within parks, as long as they are performed in groups of no more than two. Minors are excluded from this development.
Parks, playgrounds and other open spaces remain closed.
The use of open or outdoor sports facilities for high-level athletes included in the list of the Cyprus Olympic Committee will be permitted.
As of May 18, team sports training sessions in open spaces will resume.
For both individual and team sports, the use of locker rooms, gyms or other closed spaces will not be permitted.
Phase two, implemented May 21
1. All restrictions on the movement of citizens will be lifted.
2. Use of parks, playgrounds in open spaces, squares, marinas, etc. will be free, provided that those gathered do not exceed 10.
3. Catering companies will reopen only for outdoor areas, subject to the strict protocols to be issued by the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health.
4. Hairdressers, barbershops, beauty salons will reopen.
5. Beginning June 1:
(i) Operation and access to organized beaches will be allowed.
(ii) Ports shall be fully operational, with the exception of the disembarkation of passengers by cruise ships.
(iii) Libraries, museums, archaeological and historical sites will reopen.
(iv) Betting agencies will reopen.
The operation of the above business or other activities will be strictly regulated by the terms and conditions set by the Ministries of Health and Labour, Anastasiades stressed.
“At the same time, I would like to point out that the Government is planning to gradually repatriate students and other Cypriot citizens who have been left stranded abroad due to the measures taken,” the President added.
He stressed that the strategy will be implemented as planned only if “the mutual respect and solidarity that the vast majority has shown to date continues.”
Anastasiades highlighted that the virus has not been fully understood yet, and this means that we cannot rush into anything too soon.
“Countries that have adopted a de-escalation of measures earlier in order to achieve the resumption of the economy, downplaying the risks, are now recording a renewed escalation of cases and a setback from the successful course they were initially on.”
“From May 4, the first timid steps to leave our shelters take place. This creates an additional responsibility. We all need to protect, in addition to ourselves, our loved ones, our friends, our colleagues, our fellow citizens,” Anastasiades said.