NICOSIA — Local lockdowns on Cyprus aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 is drawing fire from businesses who said they can't keep sustaining losses and would keep to health measures if allowed to reopen.
“They shut us down. Larnaca is full of cases. They shut us down. We have no revenue,” Limassol Nags Head Pub owner Kypros Kyprianou told The Cyprus Mail which reported on the growing resistance.
“People have a desire to adhere to the rules but this is ridiculous. They mock us. This is unfair,” Kyprianou added, joining other business owners whose reactions ranged from anger to resignation in many cases.
The lockdown isn't total on the side of the island that is a member of the European Union, not including the northern third occupied by Turkish-Cypriots since an unlawful 1974 invasion by Turkish forces.
While it's total in some parts of the island hardest-hit, health measures are so severe in other parts that businesses said they are bleeding money because of restrictions on the number of customers.
“Our staff is on 60 percent of their normal wages. Let’s see government employees take this arrangement. They’re mocking us. Do other cities not have cases? If they wanted to enforce a full lockdown, they should have done a lockdown all over the island, not just locally,” Kyprianou said.
“They should protect fragile groups, of course. We are a tiny island and they apply local lockdowns. It’s unbelievable. You would not believe how many people are in need of food because they have no money during this time. They mock us with these measures, that’s all I have to say,” he concluded.
Gatienne Thibaut, owner of French restaurant Brasserie Au Bon Plaisir in the capital Nicosia, said that, “We find it difficult. As I say to my customers, once upon a time I signed on to the hospitality business. We are in Nicosia and we don’t have a full lockdown. At least we can still work, and we have to change the habits and change the capacity.”
“We used to create a lot of successful events and we were extremely packed. Now we have to limit those events. It’s changed a lot of things. Adaptation is the key”, Thibaut said.
“To be honest, with the measures that have already been taken for Nicosia, the limitation of attendees, the social distancing, the early closing, places like ours are really safe. It’s not a place that can be a place of contamination or a hot spot. I don’t think the government should take stricter measures. I hope they don’t because it will be more counterproductive than productive,” she added.
Restaurants are taking a hit over restrictions and people fearful of eating out as the pandemic still rages on although Cyprus had one of the safest records in the European Union for a time.
While restaurants are trying to make do with a combination that includes delivery and takeout, retailers can sell online without people having to visit their stores, a safer option for many customers.
“We are a hybrid company. So we also have services, we’re not restricted to retail. We always have something to offer so there’s always business,” Costas Kastamoulas, retail and marketing manager at Bionic, an electronic store, said.
“Online sales have been doing very well all year. We had already invested in an innovative online shop years ago, so this hasn’t been new to us. When all shops had to close, we just went fully digital. This also helped people who wanted to avoid going to the shop for safety reasons, even when the option was available to them,”, Kastamoulas noted.
It's very tough going though for gyms and places where people work out, the risk high from sweat and equipment used by multiple people despite health protocols aimed at making it safer.
Larnaca-based gym owners who didn't want to be identified told the paper it's been very difficult for months. “We have about 50 per cent less business than normal. Every time people came back something happened to scare them away”, they said.
“People see all the measures we have implemented, all the posters, all the warnings, and it just turns them off from wanting to be at the gym. I think this is the case with a lot of businesses, not just ours,” they added.
Another restaurant owner in Larnaca, also not named, summed up all the fears. “People are careful, of course. The situation is difficult, but people need to live their lives. You do what you can. People keep their distances, things are fine at the restaurant, people just need to be careful. We do everything we can to protect them.”