The joint press conference of 3 Ministers the Minister of Finance, Labor and Health on the issue of the gradual lifting of the restrictive measures announced on Wednesday by the President Nicos Anastasiades was completed.
The ministers answered questions about the details of the Council of Ministers’ decision, in relation to the gradual lifting of restrictive measures and restart economy, issues concerning the responsibilities of their Ministries.
President of the Republic announced the first two phases for the gradual lifting of the restrictions that begin on May 4 and 21, respectively, after taking into account the suggestions of the scientific team, the recommendations of the European Commission and World Health Organization.
Minister of Finance
The return map of the economy in the 4th quarter of 2020 and the peak of growth next year, aims the roadmap for the gradual return of economic activity, said Finance Minister Konstantinos Petridis, emphasizing that the second phase is considered more dangerous and will need more caution. , so that “no steps are taken backwards”.
“If we comply with this in the second, more dangerous phase, which needs more discipline, we may need to be more vigilant, then the economy may begin to recover in the fourth quarter of this year and the recovery peaked in 2021. “
Finance Minister described the retail sector in the economy as very important, emphasizing that it contributes over € 1 billion to the economy, employees 38,000 people or 9.4% of the workforce and contributes about 12% in government revenue.
Regarding the construction sector, he said that it offers 5% of the added value to the economy, with employment exceeding 30,000 people or 7.5% of total employment and contributing more than 16% to government revenues.
Minister Of Health
From the first day, we were called upon to manage the unprecedented crisis, we have made the protection of the health system and the protection of vulnerable groups of the population a top priority. based on what the President announced yesterday, we owe it to your cooperation and we thank you once again.
The encouraging epidemiological picture in Cyprus that allows us to take the step towards the gradual lifting of restrictions, as we had planned, is the result of a painstaking effort based on the strategy of strict tracking of cases and the simultaneous management of incidents.
To ensure that the situation remains manageable, our steps will be slow and steady. In particular, both public and private hospitals are gradually starting to reopen, but with some limitations, as follows:
• Limited Visitors are allowed.
• Re-opening of dental clinics.
• With regard to public hospitals:
• Organization and operation of Outpatient Clinics for Specialist Physicians, only by appointment to ensure the protection of patients and health professionals.
• In addition, public hospitals will be upgraded to make COVID-19 more accessible.
Safety and Health in the Workplace
Relaxing the restrictive measures from Monday, May 4, is not an easy task. It hides many dangers, both individually and collectively.
We have issued detailed instructions that all employees should follow. Our joy at the reopening of a significant number of stores and other business places is accompanied by our strong concern about the increase in cases, as has happened in other countries, such as Germany.
Summary from Monday, the following hygiene measures will apply to businesses that will reopen:
• 8 sq.m. for each employee and 2 meters distance between each other
• mandatory placement of antiseptic at each company entrance
• posting outside the premises of the physical presence number of persons within the premises for informing both the public and to facilitate the work of Labor Inspectors
• daily and meticulous cleaning and disinfection of frequently used surfaces, etc.
• direct access to masks, thermometers, etc.
It is understood that employees should strictly follow the rules of hygiene.
The Ministry of Health ordered a large number of protective masks a month ago before there was a recommendation for the use of a protective mask. We have purchased 9 million single-use, simple surgical masks, which will be given to the public and wider public sector, as well as to the affected companies to meet some of their needs.
The use of a mask, I must emphasize, is mandatory for employees who have direct contact with the public (Public and public sector, Retail, Public Transport).
The use of a mask by citizens in the community is recommended in crowded and closed spaces, such as supermarkets, large stores, public transport, etc.
Simply put, cashiers and other supermarket employees, store employees, bus drivers and generally individuals, public or municipal, employees who come into contact with people, must wear a mask. Customers of supermarkets and other closed stores, bus passengers, are encouraged to wear a mask but are not required to.
Employees who belong to vulnerable groups
Protecting the health of our citizens belonging to vulnerable groups remains a priority for the state. For this reason, yesterday we updated the list of vulnerable groups depending on the degree of risk from exposure to the virus, based on the epidemiological data and morbidity of COVID-19 patients.
The first category includes patients and other people who can work provided they are not in public places and there is no increased number of people.
The second category includes patients and other people who are considered very high risk and are required to work from home.
In order to further protect our fellow citizens belonging to vulnerable groups, we decided in certain cases to refer special categories of individuals to Public Health Clinics to undergo tests for the coronary artery with a subsidy from the Ministry of Health. Indicatively, such cases are:
• Cancer patients before being admitted for treatment
• Pregnant women
• Elderly people before being admitted to a care home
• Abused people (adults and children) before being admitted to shelters.
Extended Diagnostics Tests
The program of the extended tests that we have done is part of the virus treatment strategy, which I mentioned at the beginning. To date, we have more than 55,000 registered laboratory tests, a number that ranks Cyprus among the top countries in Europe.
This method, in combination with strict tracking, proved to be particularly effective at the pan-European level and even received congratulations from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Indicatively, the Program of 20,000 tests for working citizens who had not suspended their work during the restrictions until yesterday have been processed 17,601 and 28 positive cases were found.
In addition, in view of the policy support for further laboratory tests, the Council of Ministers decided to restart the Program for another 20,000 free Coronavirus tests for employees who will return to work on Monday. Specifically:
1. For retail workers with direct contact, the public will be conducted 14,000 laboratory tests
2. For construction site workers will be 6,000 tests (3,000 on-site with a Mobile Unit in consultation with the Ministry of Labor and 3,000 by appointment).
Analytically, the Strategy for lifting the restrictive measures and restarting the economy has been defined in 4 phases which have been approved by the Council of Ministers, and will be adjusted according to the epidemiological data, as follows:
Phase 1: May 4 to May 20, 2020
- Construction sites and all similar economic activities
- Retail Stores – reopening of all stores, except shopping malls/department stores. The days and hours of operation of the stores will be determined by the Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Insurance and the Ministry of Health
- Public Markets, Planning
- Sale of cruise ships for refuelling (without disembarking passengers or crew replacement).
- Replacement of crews for merchant ships and the movement of private boats in licensed areas, for purposes of mooring, maintenance and repairs
- Students in the final school year can go back to class. For all other levels of education, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth will announce a relevant plan. It is understood that until the full reopening of the school units, the vocational training will continue.
- Carrying out planned operations, based on ceilings to be determined by the Ministry of Health
- Dental Centers / Clinics (those that remain closed after the Decree of 23 April)
- Use of open or outdoor sports facilities only for athletes with high-performance conditions. Olympic Committee, without the use of locker rooms, gyms or other closed related infrastructure.
- Training for team sports only in open spaces, without the use of locker rooms, gyms or other closed related infrastructure. (from May 18
- Opening of Tourist and Travel Agencies
- Re-opening of car washes full functional
- Revision of instructions for public transport (fullness up to 50%)
- Full operation of Public Service and the wider public sector.
It is important for the economy as an industry and manufacturing sector to function fully. It is emphasized that the restarting of economic activities will be based on guidelines or protocols, as already mentioned.
- People may take three trips outside a day, up from one, provided they receive permission via SMS.
- curfew from 10pm to 6am
- From May 4, prayer is allowed in churches, mosques and other places, more than 10 people will not coexist at the same time.
Phase 2: May 21 to June 8
- Opening of Hairdressers/barbershops/beauty salons from May 21
- Opening of Catering services, only outdoor service from May 21
- Opening of Libraries from June 1
- opening of Museums, archaeological sites and historical sites from June 1
- opening of Betting Shops from 1 June
- Ports and activities therein may take place, except as regards people disembarking from cruise ships.
Freedom of movement
- After 21 May Permission, SMS Service will be no longer needed.
- Meetings of up to 10 people will be allowed. The same measures will apply to weddings, baptisms and funerals.
- Free movement in parks, outdoor playgrounds, squares, marinas, etc, meaning that those gathered will not exceed 10.
- The curfew will be finished from 10 pm to 6 am.
Phase 3: June 9 to July 13
- Opening of Shopping Centers / Malls
- Opening of Airports/Airlines – gradually and conditionally
- Opening of Ports, service and cruise
- Opening of catering services, service indoors and outdoors
- Opening of Hotels
- Opening of Beaches: Condition maintaining a safe distance
- Opening of theatres and open-air cinema
- Opening of Gyms
- Opening of Sports Championships (without fans)
- Opening of Summer programs of private and higher education schools
Returning to Normal
- Cancellation of all restrictions
Phase 4: from 14 July onwards
- Indoor theatres and cinemas
- Festivals and Concerts
- Playgrounds indoors and outdoors
A special plan will be drawn up for the gradual reopening of all the above areas. It is emphasized that the resumption of economic activities will be based on guidelines or protocols, as already mentioned. In particular, for large concentrations, the limit on the number of individuals will be determined at a later stage.
Zeta Emilianidou: Delays in the imposition of allowances
Asked about the non-payment of benefits to some employees by the Ministry of Labor, for the first phase of the projects, from March 16 to April 12, bonuses have been paid to 140,000 employees before Easter. she added that there are a number of unpaid allowances due to the fact that for the first time such a large number of applications have been submitted with a computerized system that was made in 15 days.
Additional payments are made daily, he said. For the first time, he added, employees had to submit all the data electronically, there were several errors when submitting the applications, and in some cases, there is still no account number.
problems in the computerized system and huge efforts are being made by experts to correct these problems. He added that the ministry had to make adjustments and improve some of the plan’s provisions, after examining the statistical data from the first payments of the allowances.
she noted that differentiated criteria will be applied during the 2nd phase of the plans, while the difference between the beneficiaries will be paid retroactively after the change of the plans. He also said that 360 euros had been set for the four-week period, the minimum amount of allowance, regardless of the low salary an employee was declared to the Social Security Fund.
Regarding the problem that many did not meet the insurance requirements of 2018, he said that it was decided to compare with the January salary and to impose 60%, in order to increase the allowance that one will receive.
Those who started work in February or March 2020, he added, provided that they are declared by their employers and their salary will be beneficiaries in the next plan that will start on 13/4.
The ministry’s plans, he said, will continue to be in place for three months until 12/6, provided that companies taking part in the plans will not be able to make redundancies. He added that by 12/10 for another four months, state support for businesses that will not recover satisfactorily and will have a reduction in their turnover will continue. That, he said, is very important.
Asked whether any reduction in wages should be accompanied by a reduction in working hours, the Minister of Labor said that under the law on wage protection, no employer can differentiate the wages of any employee.
What he has the right to do, he said, is that if his business is underperforming, he will not be able to employ the employee for as many hours as he was previously employed. “Therefore, if a company is included in the plan and we pay 60% of the employee’s salary as an allowance and the employee continues to be employed for all his working hours, then the company is obliged – and it is a criminal offence not to do so – to pays the rest of the employee’s salary, “he said.
He added that it is inadmissible for an employer to employ only 60% of the hours for which an allowance is paid and it is a criminal offence. However, as he said, it is the employer’s right, in consultation with the employer, to employ him for as many hours as he needs in the business, always observing labour rights and collective agreements.
In another question, he said that he would continue to have the right to special care plans for any parent who has children under the age of 15 and parents of children with disabilities regardless of age.
Question: If the situation worsens, what is happening in the economy?
Konstantinos Petridis: The goal is to go one step further and not steps back. Call for hygiene and safety rules to be observed. From the first moment, with proper financial management, we could, if the total lockdown did not exceed 2 months. That’s why strict measures are in place so that this period does not extend. of course, we do not succeed then we are entering uncharted waters and I cannot predict.
Question: Salary benefits and reductions
We have published instructions posted on the Labor Inspectorate’s website for employers and employees. Our priority is employee safety. Criminal offence against those who do not comply with security measures in retail or construction sites. Inspections will be carried out on 25,000 premises.
Asked about the benefits that were not imposed, Mrs. Zeta Aimilianidou said, among other things, that there are still cases where we do not have a bank account number yet, although the applications have been approved. There are problems with the system. Great efforts are being made to repair it.
Changes in the phase 13/04 – 14/05 for the beneficiaries to receive the amounts more fairly. The minimum wage is 360 euros, regardless of salary for four weeks. Continuation of plans until June for those who do not lay off workers, state support until October for those who continue to reduce turnover
Until 12/6 the plans provided that the company will not be able to dismiss. No employer can differentiate the salary of any employee. What he has the right to do is if his business is down, it makes sense that he can’t hire an employee at all hours. So if the company has joined the project, we also pay 60% and it works all the time. Criminal offense not to pay the full salary. It is the employer’s right, in consultation with the employer, to employ him during the hours required, but in compliance with labor rights.
Based on the recommendations of the epidemiological team, said Mr. Ioannou, answering a question regarding the granting of a mask to meet the needs of employees, “for those who are required to use a mask, the Ministry of Health has very early to place an order for purchase Free masks will be given to 9 million masks, in the public and wider public sector in the departments that serve the public. As far as the private sector is concerned, in consultation with the competent bodies and Associations (OEB, KEVE, etc.), part of the needs will be covered free of charge by the Ministry of Health, so we will partially cover their needs “.
“I am convinced that if we follow the basic rules, ie two meters distance, avoidance of gatherings, etc., there will be – and is expected – an increase in the number of cases, but it will be manageable, based on the epidemiological indicators that have been determined. These are not only indicators for relaxation, but also indicators for evaluation “, he pointed out.
He added that it is worrying that, according to the experience of other countries, where there has already been relaxation, There was also an increase in cases, but also in the contagion index, which as you all know is now at 1: 1. “And in our case, there is concern about this, we will constantly emphasize the need for the faithful observance of protection and personal hygiene measures,”
Asked about the interventions in private hospitals, the Minister of Health said that this will be regulated by a Decree that will be issued within the day. We want, he said, to have access to hospitals, so that if a new outbreak of the virus is recorded and we need beds, there will be availability.
Regarding travel and visits to relatives or friends, especially if they are in another city, Mr. Ioannou clarified that in the first phase, travel and visits are prohibited. To move to another city, citizens must send a written message by May 21 regarding the applicable categories. In the second phase, he said, all restrictions on travel are lifted.
Question: Will the financial measures be approved by the Parliament?
Petridis: The government’s economic planning is not fragmentary. Everyone should see it as a complete design. We will use all weapons in this war