Cyprus unveils road map to easing coronavirus restrictions

Health

A man wearing a fask mask to protect againt coronavirus, handles his mobile telephone as he sits outside a shuttered cafe on the vacant Ledra Street in Nicosia, Cyprus, Sunday, April 26, 2020. Medical experts say the low number of new coronavirus infections is paving the way to start gradually lifting a strict day-at-home order that includes a night time curfew. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus’ president unveiled a road-map Wednesday for gradually lifting a strict, stay-at-home order over the next month that has until now helped to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

But Nicos Anastasiades said that the “danger hasn’t passed,” as health experts note that the virus won’t completely go away any time soon. He warned that “deviations from or acts of ill-discipline” to authorities’ guidelines would lead to a return to lockdown conditions “that nobody wishes.”

Infection rate data coupled with recommendations from a scientific advisory committee will determine if the road map will remain on track, Anastasiades said.

Restrictions on movement will start to be rolled back on May 4, with the maximum number of allows excursions outside the home increased from once per day to three. A nighttime curfew will remain in place until restrictions are completely lifted on May 21, when restaurants, hair and beauty salons will also reopen.

Also on May 4, government workers are to head back to offices, construction to restart and retail shops — with the exception of malls or department stores — to open their doors. High schools are due to reopen a week after that only for graduating students.

Churches will also be allowed to resume services on May 4, but congregations will be limited to 10 people until June 1, when they can operate normally in line with stipulated hygiene rules.

Individual athletes can restart training in open-air facilities on May 4, while athletes in team sports can start practicing together two weeks later, although locker rooms will remain off-limits.

June 1 will see public beaches open to bathers, while museums, libraries and archaeological sites will start accepting visitors. Ports will also then be allowed to start operating although no cruise ship passengers will be allowed to disembark.

The Cypriot president said the government’s cautious approach — despite appeals from the business community to quickly reboot the economy — is owed to the fact that other countries’ hasty steps to get back to business have resulted in fresh spikes in COVID-19 infections.

Anastasiades made no mention of when airports will become fully operational in the tourism-reliant country. A ban on all flights remains in effect until May 17.

Tourism directly accounts for 13% of the east Mediterranean island nation’s gross domestic product. Government officials say the country is estimated to lose at least 1.5 billion euros ($1.63 billion) or about 60% of its tourism-generated revenue this year.

Cyprus, with a population of around 880,000, to date counts 843 confirmed coronavirus cases and 15 deaths.

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