Nine new cases of COVID-19 infections were reported on Thursday evening, bringing the number to 67 in the government controlled areas, 20 in the north and a total of 87 islandwide. Six of the new confirmed cases relate to people who had come into contact with a person who had previously tested positive. The other three new cases are people who returned from abroad, namely: Bulgaria, Italy and the UK. According to the health ministry, 37 of the 67 COVID-19 infections in the south relate to people who had come into contact with previously confirmed cases.
Cyprus is at war with an invisible enemy, Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides said Thursday, suggesting that the state’s package to support the economy amid the COVID-19 crisis is one of the biggest in the European Union. Speaking after a meeting in which the president briefed party leaders about the developments on the virus front, Petrides said they discussed the measures that needed to be put in place “because we are at war and we are facing a common, invisible enemy.” Petrides said the package the government has prepared was much bigger than others in the EU, taking into account all the parties’ proposals, even last-minute ones. The minister said he informed the parties that he intended to prepare another package aimed at stimulating liquidity in small and medium businesses, either through guaranteed loans or subsidies or a combination. Petrides said the effort is for both packages to be approved together early next week. “This will be among the strongest support packages at a European level and I want to believe that we are using correctly the resources we have to fight this crisis, which is however, characterised by a high degree of uncertainty in both depth and duration,” Petrides said. The minister added that the economic fallout depended almost solely on the measures that relate to public health.
The Education Ministry has announced that a portal has opened for students eligible for a €750 special allowance who have remained abroad due to the COVID -19 epidemic. The link is http://www.moec.gov.cy. The portal will be open until 14.00 hours on Wednesday, April 22. Detailed instructions to fill and submit the applications can be found on the portal.
Energy regulator Cera on Thursday decided to reduce the price of electricity by 10 per cent for two months as part of measures to tackle the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis. The reduction had been proposed by the government on Wednesday. Cera said the electricity company will not recover the lost revenue at a later period. The loss will be covered by the company’s surplus, Cera said.
Paphos general hospital remained closed on Thursday as health authorities continued to test staff for COVID-19 while Limassol general hospital was also headed for a shutdown after a doctor was found positive the previous day. So far, 360 of around 680 workers and 50 patients at Paphos hospital have been tested with 12 positive outcomes – nine nurses, one doctor, a patient, and a cleaner.
The Central Bank of Cyprus announced on Wednesday it was relaxing loan origination rules while it freed additional capital amounting to €100m, bringing the total capital buffer to €1.4bn. The measures are a move to encourage banks to continue lending and show a more flexible stance to business and households affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. The bank also urged commercial banks to show more flexibility in dealing with borrowers affected by the epidemic, offering restructurings that include suspension of instalments on capital, interest or both for a period of nine months. The central bank also said it is considering further measures which will be announced within the following days. The decision came a few days after the Single Supervisory Mechanism announced it relaxed the banks’ capital requirements freeing up capital amounting to €1.3bn for Cyprus’ banking institutions. According to the CBC, performing borrowers, both companies, self-employed persons and public servants affected by the government measures can apply for such loans until June 30. The relaxed criteria concern the evaluation of loan repayment capacity and the submission of the necessary documents. These new credit facilities cover overdrafts, short-term loans with payment upon maturity without monthly instalments.
A government financial support package is expected to help limit COVID-19-related impact on banks’ asset quality, Moody’s ratings agency has said. The financial support package of €700 ml is equivalent to 3 per cent of GDP, of which €450m are fiscal measures and €250 ml liquidity support with no fiscal effect on government finances. “We expect the package, which includes financial support for affected businesses and households, in addition to ECB measures and potential Central Bank of Cyprus measures, to help limit the Paphos general hospital remained closed on Thursday as health authorities continued to test staff for COVID-19 while Limassol general hospital was also headed for a shutdown after a doctor was found positive the previous day. So far, 360 of around 680 workers and 50 patients at Paphos hospital have been tested with 12 positive outcomes – nine nurses, one doctor, a patient, and a cleaner. -related impact on banks’ asset quality and profitability,” Moody’s said. Financial support for affected businesses and households aims to limit unemployment and help maintain domestic consumption, and support tourism during the peak summer months and to extend the tourism season beyond October.
A new decree has designated the Labour and Health Ministries as well as the health services of local authorities and of the wider public service as essential services and staff have been asked to return to work. It is the latest in a flurry of decisions as Cyprus ramps up efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. The decree follows that of March 16 and expands the staff who are deemed essential who are told return/remain at work.
(a) Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance and all the departments affiliated with it
(b) Health Ministry including all its departments and units as well as the state health services organisation (OKIPI) and the Health Insurance Organisation
(c) the health services of local authorities and the wider public sector
Employees who belong to the category of vulnerable groups will be used in other duties so that their health is not placed at risk. Those who wish to abstain to work can request sick leave. The decree revoked the suspension of the operation of car workshops, but prohibits the washing of the interiors of cars at car washes and petrol stations until April 13. Moreover, the decree exempts hotels which host personnel being houses there under bilateral and international agreements from the decree ordering the closure of hotels. These can remain open only for this purpose.
The government has not ruled out imposing a curfew if necessary in a bid to stop the spread of the COVID-19, but no such decision has been taken yet, government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos said Thursday. The spokesman said that it was a matter for the experts to decide and politicians will follow their advice. If developments dictate it, imposing a curfew will not be ruled out, he said. The president is scheduled to brief party leaders on the situation and measures the government was looking at depending on developments on Thursday morning. The president will also hear party views and recommendations.
At the same time, the implementation of an obligatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals to the north at a central facility as part of COVID-19 measures has started. Since Tuesday, all arrivals from sea and airports in the non-government controlled areas, have been transported to hotels where they will be accommodated for 14 days. There are now 102 people under quarantine at the Malpas Hotel. At the same time, the two Turkish Cypriot university students who were placed in a quarantine facility set up by the Republic of Cyprus in Troodos, after arriving on the island on Monday, were transferred to the central quarantine centre in the non-government controlled areas. The transfer was made possible following a request made by the Turkish Cypriot authorities through the bicommunal Technical Committee on Health. The two students were brought to the Agios Dometios crossing point where they were handed over to Turkish Cypriot health authorities. Later on Wednesday evening, Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akıncı and the RoC President, Nicos Anastasiades discussed over the telephone the latest situation on both sides concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. In a written statement, Akıncı’s office said the two leaders in addition to reiterating their determination for a joint struggle against the common threat of coronavirus, focused on the importance of the continuation of the collaboration between the two sides through the bicommunal Technical Committee on Health. According to the announcement, during the telephone conversation, they also discussed the initiatives that need to be launched with the United Nations and the European Union regarding the needs identified through the framework of the joint committee.