Front Page Headlines
First opening steps
The Council of Ministers met for six hours. Criteria for opening up to be announced today (Thursday). Partial curfew to end on May 4, except for on Sundays. Night-time curfew to remain. Restaurants, patisseries, cafes and kiosks will be allowed to offer takeaway or delivery services as of May 11 provided they get their staff tested. Criteria for all sectors, except for tourism, entertainment venues, barbers and hairdressers and educational institutions which remain closed, will be announced today (Thursday). There will be no return to a normal working routine at public offices but civil servants will work on a rotational basis at departments when needed. All entry into the country will remain closed until May 15 for the exception of TRNC citizens, their spouses and children.
- Businesses and sectors which will remain closed until May 15 – “Restaurants, cafes, bars, cafeterias, patisseries, kiosks, tourism sector, hotels, casinos, betting offices, all entertainment venues, gyms, sports facilities, public transportation, wedding halls, dance schools, massage parlours, farmers markets, hairdressers, barbers, beauty salons, theatres, cinemas, coffee shops, sports clubs, children’s’ playgrounds and picnic areas.”
- Negative or positive? “More tests for 16 people” –Health Minister Ali Pilli announced that 1176 tests were carried out yesterday (Thursday) and that 16 people had undergone PCR tests.
- Restrictions being lifted in the south – Public sector returning to work on May 4. However, civil servants responsible for looking after children up to 15 years old will not have to go back to work. All bans and restrictions on movement to be lifted as of May 21.
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The cabinet has decided some of the sectors could resume work under certain conditions starting May 4. It also decided to lift the partial curfew and the travel ban between districts. The criteria and other rules for the sectors to be reopened will be announced today (Thursday).
- The threat is not over yet – Head of Turkish Cypriot Doctors’ Association Dr Özlem Gürkut emphasized the importance of protective measures against the virus. Businesses must keep records of their customers in order for health officials to be able to trace any infection.
Here are the businesses which will be reopened
Economy and Energy Minister Hasan Taçoy spoke on Havadis web TV regarding the reopening process from May 4 onwards. Taçoy said all the businesses will be recording information of their customers including ID and telephone numbers, their time and date of arrival. The two-metre rule will be followed strictly within the premise. He added that the European Union (EU) and the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce (KTTO) are working on a grant scheme for micro-businesses in the food businesses. The grants will be up to €2,500. Taçoy said, “I believe this will be a life-saving grant scheme for them.”
- The latest situation: 108 cases, four deaths; South 843 cases, 15 deaths; Turkey 117,589 cases, 3,081 deaths.
The travel ban between districts will end on May 4 while the 9 pm-6 am street curfew will continue until May 15. The Council of Ministers decided to allow many businesses and sectors to open up as of May 4. The partial (day-time) curfew is also to be lifted as well except for Sundays. As Diyalog reported yesterday (Wednesday), education institutions, the tourism sector, entertainment venues, gyms and sports facilities, culture and arts centres, dentists, betting offices, casinos, internet cafes, bars and village coffee shops will remain closed for a little longer. Only takeaway or delivery services of restaurants will be allowed to resume.
- The measures have been announced – South Cyprus is opening the public-sector, the courts and shops as of May 4.
- 16 suspected cases – North Cyprus conducted 1176 tests for the first time yesterday (Wednesday).
- The number of cases 843 – The number of tests carried out in the South has exceeded 55,000. Coronavirus was detected in six people yesterday (Wednesday).
- Death toll reaches 3081 –The total number of cases in Turkey reaches 117,589 with an increase of 2,936 cases.
Both north and south are easing lockdown as of May 4. In the north, the day-time street curfew will be lifted but the night-time curfew (9 pm-6m) will continue. The day-time curfew will continue on Sundays for the time being. Schools and educational institutions to remain closed until May 15. Cinemas, theatres, mass events, weddings and sports competitions not allowed until May 15. Civil servants will return to work on a rotational basis at departments where the need arises. No mass worship is allowed. Restaurants, patisseries, cafes and kiosks will be allowed to operate takeaway or delivery services as of May 11 provided they get their staff tested. In the south, construction sites and farmers markets to be opened on May 4. All shops, except for malls will be opened under strict guidelines. All public offices and courts will open on May 4. Night-time curfew to continued. Final year students to return to schools on May 11. Churches and mosques will be opened to only let ten people in at a time. Football practices to start on May 18. Restaurants and cafes with open spaces to be allowed to open on May 21.
- Businesses and sectors which will remain closed until May 15 – “Restaurants, cafes, bars, cafeterias, patisseries, kiosks, tourism sector, hotels, casinos, betting offices, all entertainment venues, gyms, sports facilities, public transportation, wedding halls, dance schools, massage parlours, farmers markets, hairdressers, barbers, beauty salons, theatres, cinemas, coffee shops, sports clubs, children’s’ playgrounds and picnic areas.
- Police undergo rapid (antibody) tests – 436 police officers from all districts were tested.
- 16 people will undergo PCR tests – It was certain if there were new cases in the north yesterday (Wednesday). While 1176 people were tested yesterday (Wednesday) it was announced that 16 of them would be tested again, this time using PCR testing. Six positive cases were detected in the 2436 tests carried out in the south yesterday (Wednesday).
Crossing points will eventually reopen but not yet, says AkıncıYenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
Internal Security, Negotiations Process
President Mustafa Akıncı said that the reopening of the crossing points will eventually happen but that, unlike the manner they were shut in, it will not be possible to open them through unilateral action.
“We need cooperation and consensus in order to reopen the crossings,” Akıncı told Kanal T on Tuesday night.
Arguing that it was a mistake that the decisions for the closing of the crossings by the two sides were unilateral ones at the time, he said they should not be reopened unilaterally in the same manner.
He said that the prerequisite for the reopening of the crossings should cooperation and understanding.
“This is a decision to be jointly taken,” Akıncı said, adding however that the time was not right for the crossings to reopen.
“When we reach that point, coordination will be necessary internally, with the UN and the Greek Cypriot side,” he said.
In response to a question as to whether or not the Greek Cypriot side would approve of a settlement that included Turkey, Akıncı expressed his view that it will be in the best interest of the two communities as well as Turkey to maintain good and friendly neighbourly relations.
“But our agenda today is not the Cyprus Problem. We will do what is best for our community when the time comes,” he said.
Akıncı also argued that it was not possible and unnecessary for Turkey to cut its ties with the island.
“The whole world knows this reality. Whether it was in 2004 or in Crans Montana in 2017, we were close to agreeing on a framework. Unfortunately, we couldn’t finalize it,” he said.
Akıncı reminded that the framework had been set straight with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s statement following the trilateral meeting in Berlin.
A possible date for an unofficial five-party meeting followed by an official one will only be determined once the current the global coronavirus pandemic is over, he added.
Akıncı said whether or not new negotiations process will begin will be determined by the Turkish Cypriot community.
“The elections will determine whether or not there will be a new round of talks. The UN Secretary-General will be preparing for a five-party meeting. However, the only thing on the world’s agenda right now is the global pandemic.
Also commenting on the upcoming elections, Akıncı pointed out that there was no provision in the constitution regarding the postponement of presidential elections but that parliament had made the decision after seeking the views of the attorney general.
“The public is unhappy that this issue is being debated in such a fashion. Some may want me to leave at all costs. But the ultimate and final decision will be made at the ballot. We need to be patient. Parliament has set October 11 as the election date but we could hold elections earlier if it will not pose a risk to public health,” he said.
Regarding the economy, Akıncı also repeated his earlier view that the economy could not come before the public’s health.
“As I have said before you cannot have an economy without having health,” he said, pointing out that it was necessary to have a pandemic hospital, more tests and stricter adherence to measures before a decision was taken to reopen economic sectors.
Akıncı said that he did not agree with the government’s refusal to touch higher-income segments of society while expecting the civil-servants and private sector employees to bear the cost of the crisis.
“Everyone needs to shoulder responsibility and chip in,” he said, adding that this could be possible through removing inequalities in income and creating a fair tax system,” he said
Akıncı argued the state needed to spend more money on science, education and health.
Responding to claims by the government that he was trying to undermine the authority of the cabinet by setting up scientific and economic advisory councils, Akıncı said such claims were ridiculous.
“These advisory boards were not set up as decision-making bodies to rival the government or to be an alternative to the government. Their sole purpose is to assist and offer recommendations,” he said.
Akıncı pointed out that all the other presidential candidates, including National Unity Party (UBP) leader and Prime Minister Ersin Tatar, had vowed to be more active in domestic politics if elected.
“It is difficult to understand his reactions to the assistance we are trying to provide, particularly at a time when we are fighting a pandemic,” he said.
>> Decisions to unilaterally close crossings was a mistake but crossings should not be reopened unilaterally in the same manner.
>> Prerequisite for the reopening of the crossings should be cooperation & understanding.
>> Decision needs to be taken jointly but now is not the right time.
>> When the time is right, coordination will be necessary internally, with the UN & GC side.
>> It is in the best interest of the two communities as well as Turkey to maintain good & friendly neighbourly relations.
>> Cyprob not on the agenda right now.
>> It is not possible and unnecessary for Turkey to cut its ties with the island.
>> Presidential elections can be held earlier if no risk posed to public health
16 suspected cases as north prepares to ease lockdownYenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
Internal Security, Economy
The optimistic atmosphere that had been prevailed in the north over the last 12 days soured on Wednesday when the Turkish Cypriot Health Minister announced that 16 people had undergone PCR testing after their rapid tests for Covid-19 were positive.
A total of 1,176 tests were carried out on Wednesday, raising the total number of tests in the north to a new high of 11,010.
The north has been steadily increasing rapid tests over the past week after pressure from experts and the opposition.
Pilli also announced that two more patients had been discharged from hospital leaving only three patients receiving treatment for coronavirus in hospital.
Also on Wednesday, a new consignment of medical supplies from the European Union (EU) was delivered to the Turkish Cypriot health ministry.
It was reported that the latest supplies include 4,416 PCR tests, 32 infusion pumps to be used at ICUs and 40 flow meters.
An additional 720 DNA isolation kits are also expected to be delivered on Thursday.
Meanwhile, on a more positive note, the cabinet announced on Wednesday that the process to ease the lockdown and reopen the economic sectors was to start as of Monday, May 4.
Turkish Cypriot Deputy Prime Minister Kudret Özersay, announcing the decisions, remained cautious, stressing that every single decision adopted was valid in line with current conditions and was subject to change if the situation changed.
Among the decisions was an extension of current existing restrictions until May 15.
Özersay said that the restriction on entry into the north, with the exception for Turkish Cypriots and their spouses even if there are not citizens, will continue until 15 May.
He also announced that the night-time curfew was extended until May 15 but that the day-time partial curfew will only be valid on Sundays.
Members of the public will only be allowed to visit supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations on Sunday.
The travel ban between the various districts will end as of Monday, May 4.
Özersay added that while schools, tuition centres, kindergartens, cinemas, and theatres will continue to remain closed until May 15, pharmacies, and banks will return back to their normal working hours as of May 4.
In terms of the public sector, Özersay said that essential services will continue to operate as they have since the beginning of the pandemic while other public offices, depending on the need, will resume their work until May 15 with limited staff and a rotational system.
“The public offices, which will work on a rotational basis, will provide services through appointment systems if they can. They will have to adhere to basic hygiene rules, health measures and social distancing,” Özersay said.
He reminded the health ministry had issued a notice on the rules to be adhered to on Wednesday.
The ban on mass gatherings, prayers, or fast-breaking events during the holy month of Ramadan will remain in place.
He pointed out all schools, educational institutions, tourism facilities, casinos and entertainment venues, picnic sites, sports venues, internet cafes, gyms, dance schools, nightclubs, barbers, hair-dressers and beauty salons, wedding halls, betting offices and farmers markets will remain closed until May 15.
Restaurants, cafes and patisseries will also remain closed but an exemption will be made to establishments which offer takeaway or delivery services provided that they have their staff tested for Covid-19.
All public transportation will remain suspended and parks, children playgrounds and museums will also remain closed.
Özeray announced that all other businesses and sectors apart from the aforementioned would be allowed to open and resume activity as of May 4.
He said, explaining that the businesses will be subject to conditions, rules and criteria determined by the ministry of economy.
“These criteria, which will include measures such as keeping mandatory records of all customers, providing disinfect gels for customers and social distancing rules, will be very strict. Any business which fails to comply with the rules and regulations will be shut down without prior notice,” Özersay warned.
He also said the relevant labour laws will be amended accordingly to include a category on sanctions for those who do not comply.
All operating businesses will have to shut at 8 pm, Özersay added.
In the meantime, the head of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Industry, Candan Avunduk said on Wednesday that all hygiene conditions must be met before reopening of the businesses,”.
Speaking during a programme on Genç TV, Avunduk added: “it is necessary for the cabinet to adopt the necessary decisions.”
Avunduk also argued that a new loan package must be introduced for the businesses that will be reopened.
“A loan-package for the businesses is vital for them to survive following the launch of the reopening process and in the post-Covid-19 crisis period,” Avunduk concluded.
Tatar says state revenues have hit rock-bottomYenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar raised the alarm for the economy on Wednesday, announcing that state revenues had hit rock bottom and were at an all-time low.
“We have been only able to collect ₺200m (€26.6m) this month, which means we hit the lowest bottom,” Tatar said on a programme on Genç TV on Tuesday night.
He expressed that the situation will recover once the economy is back up and running in the next few months.
Tatar also noted the health ministry was increasing its Covid-19 tests to assess the level of immunity within the community.
He added the reopening process will be dictated following the test results and recommendations from the health authorities.
“The cabinet will implement decisions in light of recommendations from the health and science boards. Thus, it will only be decided in time when to open the crossings and start flights as well as when the wheels of the economy start turning,” Tatar said
He pointed out that the lock-down of the country including businesses was causing serious financial stress on the economy.
“We have been only able to collect ₺200m (€26.6m) this month…It will take us time to get back on our feet but I believe we will manage to remain afloat through borrowing and creating alternative funds,” the premier said.
Tatar also recalled the cabinet had announced a ₺1bn (€134m) loan package in addition to the loans offered by the Development Bank.
“When we look at the available resources, the cabinet is injecting funds into the private sector in the form of loans. I believe once the market starts moving, we will be able to get to the point where we all want to be,” Tatar said.
In response to a question regarding the banking sector, Tatar said the bank interest rates on loans were still too high.
“The banking sector, no doubt, is very important for the overall Turkish Cypriot economy. Nonetheless, the high-interest rates are not sustainable,” Tatar said, adding the cabinet has raised the matter with economists, experts, sector representatives and officials from the Central Bank.
Tatar, in response to a question about the possibility of financial assistance from Turkey, said his bureaucrats continued their bilateral contacts to produce a detailed outlook of the financial situation in the north.
“I am discussing the developments with Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay regularly in addition to talking with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Nonetheless, we wish to carry out our activities with our own resources,” Tatar stressed.
Tatar also reminded that Ankara had launched a ₺500m (€66.7m) tender to repair the freshwater pipeline from Turkey which had been recently damaged due to stormy winter conditions.
Domestic violence on the rise as home isolation continuesYenidüzen
Women’s rights’ activities in the north warn there is a serious security vulnerability as more and more incidents of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and attempted rape are being reported by the media,” Yenidüzen reported on Thursday.
Turkish Cypriot activists warn that the lockdown, movement bans and curfews have resulted in a spike in incidents of domestic violence.
“The number of telephone calls to KAYAD (KAYAD Community Centre) has increased by 400 per cent,” Mine Atlı, lawyer and project coordinator at KAYAD, said.
In a similar vein, calls made to the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation and the Nicosia Turkish Municipality’s women’s shelter have also seen a significant increase.
Even though the police unit tasked to investigate domestic violence cases had announced there was a 12 per cent drop in the number of calls, the women rights’ activists argue otherwise.
“The actual number of cases is extremely high. In fact, higher than reported because the victim is not able to access the assistance mechanisms,” Atlı said.
Sharing this view, Republican Turkish Party (CTP) MP and head of the women’s branch Sıla Usar İncirli said the “12 per cent decrease in calls only proves that the victim is denied access to the assistance mechanisms in place.”
Dr Ömür Yılmaz, the project coordinator of the Nicosia Turkish Municipality’s project titled “Side-by-side against Violence,” said he received a minimum of two telephone calls per day.”
Yılmaz added the victims feel helpless because they are also stuck in the same home with their attacker or aggressor.
She also pointed out the workload of the police has increased due to the pandemic.
“I think this is extremely worrying and depressing! In my opinion, the victim either chooses not to call or when they decide to call, the police fail to take any action,” Yılmaz stressed.
Çise Atlas, a lawyer for the Women’s Shelter and a member of the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation (KTHIV) also shared the view that domestic violence is on the rise due to the lockdown.
“The victim is forced to be in the same home with the aggressor. Because they are both at home, the victim does not have the opportunity to minimize the triggering effects that result in violent behaviour,” Atlas noted.
Atlas said the services provided by the shelter has not ceased and urged every victim to call and ask for assistance.
Also on Wednesday, the Labour and Social Security Ministry announced that the help-line “ALO 183” was active.
In a statement issued, the ministry noted in view of the possibility of an increase in domestic violence cases vis-à-vis the coronavirus pandemic measures, it was necessary to closely monitor the developments in the community together with the stakeholders and the Department of Societal Gender Equality.
The Ministry also urged those who witnessed an incident of domestic violence to call the helpline or the police to bring the incident to their attention.
In another development, Yenidüzen reports that the 295 women, employed by the nightclubs in the north are no longer undergoing mandatory and weekly medical checks.
It is a known fact that the women, who are employed as “hostesses” by the nightclubs, are forced to have sex with customers even though both the act of “prostitution” and “being an intermediary for the act of prostitution” are crimes in the north.
Speaking to Yenidüzen, Erdoğan Şeniz, head of the Association of Nightclubs and Entertainment venues said the women were kept isolated and that all nightclubs are shut.
“Since there are no customers, there is also no need for medical checks either,” Şeniz concluded.
KAYAD project coordinator Mine Atlı, however, demanded the authorities carry out inspections at all the nightclubs on Wednesday.
In a written statement, Atlı also asked for the commission tasked to inspect the nightclubs, to resume their work and duties.
Atlı also said the KAYAD had applied to the Interior Ministry in writing demanding an official report on the welfare of the women, employed by the nightclubs including the limitations on their freedom of movement and health.
“Limitations and restrictions on access to health services is not a normal working condition. In fact, this is the most tangible evidence of human trafficking,” Atlı stressed and demanded an explanation from the interior ministry.