Cyprus’ Council of Ministers approved on Wednesday a strategic plan for the gradual lifting of restrictive measures in place to combat the COVID-19 outbreak and of restarting the country’s economy, with a gradual opening of businesses in key sectors of the economy from the beginning of May, always in line with epidemiological data, Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides has told CNA.
The framework approved includes three stages covering a timeline until the end of 2021, Petrides said in statements to the Cyprus News Agency, urging everyone at the same time to respect the restrictive measures in place, particularly during the Easter holidays, so that the plan of restarting the economy can become realistic.
“Essentially, with the pandemic in progress and the economic crisis escalating significantly, quite a few EU countries are planning their strategy for a gradual lifting of restrictions,” he said, adding that the European Commission has also issued guidelines aiming for a gradual exit from a general lockdown, so that member states can coordinate to avoid a negative impact between them and in order for the single market to operate smoothly.
Petrides further underlined that “a healthy and functional economy is a prerequisite for a functional health system.”
The strategic plan contains three main stages, while the possibility of transitioning from one stage to the other is largely determined from the epidemiological data, he said.
The first stage has to do with the period of implementation of restrictive measures and the economy support scheme to deal with the COVID-19 repercussions, he noted, which has already been announced to a great extent.
The second stage has to do with the gradual opening of businesses which, if the epidemiological data allow for it, will gradually begin around the beginning of May in sectors of key importance for the economy in a coordinated manner which will not endanger the effort to contain the virus in Cyprus.
“Epidemiological data must be met for the gradual opening of businesses, for example the flattening of the curve of cases, the capacity of the health system and a systematic monitoring done by way of conducting a large number of tests,” the Finance Minister said.
According to Petrides another four criteria will have to be taken into account in determining the strategy in choosing the sectors for gradual lifting of restrictive measures.
In particular, the danger of COVID-19 infections, the danger of serious diseases due to COVID-19, the significance of the relevant economic sector and social life and the possibility of imposing and maintaining safety measures.
He further noted that the measures may change according to different geographic areas, groups of citizens, social life sectors and economic sector. The interdependence between businesses and the economic sectors as well as social interactions will also be taken into account.
The third stage has to do with restarting the economy and it covers the period between September 2020 and December 2021.
“The strategy must be flexible and adaptable depending with the epidemiological data, allowing for economic activity to take place without taking unnecessary risks in health matters,” Petrides stressed, adding that it will include supporting of viable businesses, measures in sectors affected the most, a growth of the digital technology sector and supporting those who will maintain more jobs, as well as stimulating demand.
Petrides also said that the Cabinet has approved the establishment of a ministerial committee, which he will preside over with the participation of Ministers of Health, Energy, Trade and Industry, Transport, Communications and Works, Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance and the Deputy Ministers of Research and Digital Policy and Tourism.
A steering committee will also be established which will be headed by a Finance Ministry representative as well as representatives of the other ministries and officers of the Ministry of Health’s epidemiological monitoring unit.
The ministerial committee, with the support of the steering committee, will prepare and submit the strategy framework as well as the action plan to the Cabinet by the end of April, he said.