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New decisions, more undecidedness
Administrative leave in the public sector has been extended until April 30. The curfews have been extended until April 17. Private businesses will remain closed until April 17. Public servants can be called into work by their superiors. The street curfew implemented in 15 Karpaz (Karpasia) villages has been narrowed to only include Yenierenköy (Yialousa), Sipahi (Agias Trias) and Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso) Schools, daycare centres and tuition centres will remain closed until April 30. No decision has been taken regarding entrance exams for the Türk Maarif, Anadolu and Fine Arts schools. Students studying abroad and who have been unable to return to the country will also be paid a monthly contribution of ₺1700 (€232). The economy and health ministries along with health experts will decide which sector will be opened and under which conditions or rules.
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Threatening our health
The customs officers at the Famagusta Port were in an uproar for the second time. They said they were forced to process and unload a freight ship before the mandatory quarantine period of 14 days was up, so that the finance ministry would have some revenues. Head of GÜÇSEN (Customs Officers’ Union) Derviş Dağman said they were forced to process the freight ship, which had departed from a port in Israel only five days ago. He added the authorities are putting the health of the customs officers as well as the port workers at risk just so that the state can earn money. The workers or the officers have not been given any protective gear either, Dağman concluded.
- First food delivery then the construction sector could be opened – Prime Minister Ersin Tatar said the cabinet will decide on the reopening of the sectors in light of recommendations from the health ministry and the science board. He added 80 per cent of the private sector is currently shut.
- A new case is from Lefke (Lefka) – 191 tests administered in the north on Thursday. One positive case identified in Lefke (Lefka). 49 patients undergoing treatment. One is in ICU.
- The partial and night time curfew extended to 17 April – The cabinet adopted a new set of decisions on Thursday.
The government is in disarray
A crisis among the coalition partners rose from underneath the statement made by the health minister who said they were going to build a 100-bed capacity pandemic hospital. Deputy Prime Minister Özersay said, “We have no information about such a plan. The Council of Ministers has taken no such decision.”
- Let’s not relax measures – President Akıncı who evaluated the coronavirus measures with the Prime Minister and his deputy, conveyed his views and recommendations.
- “Either resign or employ more staff” – Emrah Yeşilırmak, mayor of Yenierenköy (Yialousa) criticized both the health ministry and the Turkish Cypriot Red Crescent association. Yeşilırmak said the health ministry has failed in coordinating the efforts to contain the virus with the local administrations and said: “If the minister is not able to do his job, he should resign or employ more people to assist him.”
- The last plane took from Ankara – Prime Minister Ersin Tatar said the measures will remain in place to contain the virus. He added after the last flight from Ankara, there will not be any more flights to repatriate Turkish Cypriots.
- The latest situation: north 96 cases three deaths; south 564 cases 13 deaths; Turkey 42282 cases 908 deaths.
We’re at home for another 20 days
Schools, public offices and unessential workplaces will remain closed until April 30. The TRNC Council of Ministers as in South Cyprus produced a new decision to keep all schools, public offices and unessential businesses to remain closed until April 30. While both the partial and night-time curfews have been extended for another week, the quarantine zone in the Karpaz (Karpasia) area has been downsized to three villages, only including Yenierenköy (Yialousa), Sipahi (Agias Trias) and Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso). The Council of Ministers will give its final decision concerning the ₺1500 (€204) it plans to pay for employees of private sector businesses which have shut down. The government will also be paying ₺1700 (€234) monthly for TRNC students stuck abroad.
- €30,000 from Germany to Larnaca – Wealthy people renting private jets to return to South Cyprus.
- This time from Lefke (Lefka) –The number of cases in North Cyprus has risen to 96 with one new case.
- 13th person dies –The number of cases in South Cyprus has risen to 564 with 38 new cases.
- Loss of life 908 – 4,056 new cases in Turkey. The total number of cases reach 42,282.
The streets are off-limits for one more week
The cabinet extended the partial and the night-time curfew for one more week. The public servants’ administrative leave will continue until 30 April. The restriction on travelling from one district to another has also extended by one week.
- Don’t relax the measures – President Mustafa Akıncı said even though the coronavirus curve is flat, the threat is not over yet.
- Here is the coronavirus tally for Cyprus: North 3,615 tests, 96 cases, three deaths; South: 15,489 tests, 564 cases, 15 deaths
- Brought a coronavirus positive patient from the UK – Kudret Özersay confirmed the news and said the newest patient is a Turkish Cypriot that came from abroad.
- Arrived from abroad but not taken into quarantine – The individual, who returned from the UK, is not taken under quarantine due to his illness. Instead, he was taken to his village by an ambulance. This caused concern among the other villagers.
Cabinet extends measures to April 30, one new case announcedYenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
One more coronavirus case was also detected in the north on Thursday bringing the total number to 96.
The new case was detected among 191 tests.
It concerns a person from Lefke (Lefka) who had recently returned from a visit to Sweden.
Three deaths have been recorded so far of coronavirus patients in the north, one Turkish Cypriot man and two German tourists, a man and a woman.
The cabinet on Thursday announced that public offices, for the exception of essential services, will remain closed until 30 April.
All schools will also remain closed and sports matches or competitions will not be allowed until that date.
Theatres, cinemas, rallies and other mass events will also not be allowed until 30 April.
The cabinet also extended the partial curfew, the night time street curfew and travel ban between the six districts for another week.
All private businesses, for the exception of supermarkets, bakeries, banks and pharmacies will remain closed until 17 April.
The quarantine zone in the Karpaz (Karpasia) area is being narrowed to Yenierenköy (Yialousa), Sipahi (Agia Trias) and Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso) but the full street curfew will remain in place.
Students studying abroad and who have been unable to return to the country will also be paid a monthly contribution of ₺1700 (€232).
The economy and health ministries along with health experts will decide which sector will be opened and under which conditions or rules.
Earlier in the day, the evolving situation concerning the coronavirus pandemic was discussed at a meeting on Thursday between Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı, Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay.
Tatar, told reporters afterwards that there was a consensus on the need to suspend repatriation efforts for the time being to achieve complete isolation from possible cases.
He said the meeting, among other things, had focused on which sectors could be opened for activity when the time came.
“The general understanding, we all share is that we shouldn’t rush into anything but we need to start planning as well,” Tatar said, reminding that the public’s health was always their priority.
He added that it was important for the country’s top brass to put aside politics and to consult each other the work that needs to be done.
“Today’s meeting was pleasing in that sense. We found the opportunity to evaluate the latest situation and exchanged views on how we can move forward.
Also speaking on Wednesday, Akıncı said that it was pleasing to see that the curve was flat but warned that relaxing the restrictive measures, however, was not an option, as the effects could be catastrophic
Akıncı also pointed out that it was necessary to increase testing which was something health experts were recommending.
“We need to obtain more testing kits as soon as possible and to increase the number of tests,” Akıncı added.
He said he had proposed that the government should declare it compulsory for people to wear masks when they leave their homes.
“Mr Tatar and Mr Özersay told me they would evaluate this.
Regarding the economy, Akıncı said he expected the government not to be in a rush to decide on allowing some sectors to start operating again.
“We’re not out of the woods yet. Yes, the economy has come to a standstill but you can’t have an economy without health,” he said.
Akıncı recommended that the restrictive measures should remain in place until the end of April.
He also criticized the government for cutting state contributions to municipalities and local administrations by 25 per cent as part of austerity measures.
“Local administrations are on the frontline of the government’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus. We should be supporting them as much as possible, not cutting their funds,” he argued.
Akıncı also highlighted the need for more cooperation between local administrations and the interior ministry.
He said the issue of creating a new school calendar had also come up during the meeting.
More needs to be done in terms of informing the public about the virus and the measures in place, Akıncı said, adding that members of the public should be informed about which hospitals they can seek medical treatment for cases not related to Covid-19.
Regarding the quarantine zone in Karpaz (Karpasia), Akıncı said that the coordination committee in charge of the area needed to do more to address the problems people faced in the areas.
Akıncı concluded his remarks by repeating his appeal to the public to abide by the measures in place.
“We’re not in a bad position compared to other countries. If we succeed in keeping the number of cases low we shall be able to see where we are going by the end of next week,” he said.
Özersay, speaking to Bayrak on Thursday, defended the government’s decision to repatriate those stuck in the UK.
“Were we to abandon our citizens stranded in the UK when hotels and dormitories have started to shut down?” he asked.
Özersay said that those who have been repatriated were safely quarantined and did not pose a risk to the public’s health, criticizing those who argued that those arriving would pose a risk.
He added that all repatriation efforts would be suspended following a final charter flight from Ankara on Thursday.
In the meantime, a total of 32 people was booked on Wednesday for violating the movement ban and night-time curfew.
According to police, 22 persons violated the day movement ban while eight people were booked for violating the night-time curfew in place between 9 pm and 6 am. Two others were booked for opening up their businesses.
Other alternatives must be considered for a pandemic hospital, says DizdarlıYenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
“The new central prison is not suitable to be transformed into a pandemic hospital,” former Chief of Surgery at Dr Burhan Nalbantoğlu hospital Bülent Dizdarlı said on Thursday.
Dizdarlı’s remarks came after Özersay had voiced on Wednesday the possibility of transforming the new built central prison building into a pandemic hospital.
Dizdarlı argued cabinet must seriously consider other options because pandemic hospitals are usually set up in open and spacious areas such as warehouses or large halls.
“We have to look at other alternatives before wasting the construction of the new prison as well,” Dizdarlı warned.
While expressing his displeasure over the cabinet’s hesitation on where to set up a new pandemic hospital, Dizdarlı pleaded with the authorities to reconsider their decision.
In another development, the Cyprus Vakıflar Bank has donated ₺300,000 (€41,000) to be used in the efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, Education Minister Nazım Çavuşoğlu announced the state vocational schools have started to produce face masks in their workshops.
Speaking to Bayrak, Çavuşoğlu said he has visited the vocational schools in Nicosia and Famagusta that were producing face masks and working on producing the transparent face visors for the medical personnel to use.
Unhappy private sector calls for civil disobedienceYenidüzen, Kıbrıs Postası, Kıbrıs, Havadis, Diyalog, Afrika
Internal Security, Economy
“The government must make decisions based on scientific facts and not rush into anything,” Social Democratic Party (TDP) General Secretary Halil Hızal said on Thursday.
In a written statement, Hızal also warned against complacency because of the horizontal trend in the coronavirus positive cases.
“The latest confirmed cases prove that the measures in place must be intensified rather than considering the lifting of restrictions or allowing various sectors to start operating,” Hızal stressed.
Hızal also criticised the economic relief package announced by the authorities.
“The package announced is inadequate and does not meet the expectations of the people in the lower-income groups,” Hızal argued, adding that as a result, some of the sectors were pressuring the government to lift the bans and restrictions in place so that they could reopen their shops and businesses.
He warned the authorities not to make a mistake by allowing the sectors to reopen.
“The cabinet instead must announce a new relief package that will be fair and will satisfy all. Political parties including the TDP and many different sector representatives have submitted their proposals but the cabinet needs to listen to alternative views,” Hızal concluded.
Özersay, speaking on a programme on Bayrak on Thursday, said that it was clear the north would require outside financial assistance for its economy to recover.
“The World Bank, the IMF, the EU are all working on packages. It may unfortunate that the TRNC is not recognised but since this is a humanitarian issue of a global scale I don’t think Turkish Cypriots will be ignored or excluded from such efforts,” he said.
Özersay also said he did not believe the current economic difficulties could be overcome with financial assistance or support to be provided by Turkey.
“I believe it will push us to revise our economic structure and to restructure our state, to become more self-sufficient,” he added.
This could be an opportunity to pull ourselves together and to focus on developing local production and industry, Özersay said.
However, the government continued to draw fire on Thursday from various circles unhappy with the measures in place.
“The vision displayed by the National Unity Party (UBP)- Peoples’ Party (HP) coalition government failures to instil confidence in the community,” KTÖS (Turkish Cypriot Teachers’ Union) General Secretary Şener Elcil said on Thursday.
In a statement issued, Elcil argued that the coalition had closed its ears to the proposals put forward by civil society including the doctors’ associations.
Elcil, providing examples on how the coalition failed,
argued that the government instead of sharing available resources was pushing the people to borrow money from the banks.
“The government’s economic relief package is nothing but a vision to make the people poorer and the rich wealthier,” Elcil stressed.
“We can see that the government’s vision will lead to poverty and starvation and eventually encouraging anarchy.”
Also on Thursday, the government was threatened with civil disobedience by one of the north’s most prestigious accounting firms.
“We will not fulfil any one of our financial obligations towards the state so that we can use the funds to pay the salaries of our 55 personnel employees,” G. Saydam & Co. Chartered Accountants announced on Thursday.
In a statement issued, the firm said they were forced to take such action following the Labour Ministry’s decision to exclude accountancy firms from the tax and payment deferrals measure announced for businesses forced to shut as a result of the coronavirus measures.
The statement added that accountancy firms were instructed by the cabinet to remain open during the lock-down to collect, process and deposit taxes.
“This has excluded accountancy firms from the relief package announced,” the statement read, adding that the firm which was carrying out work to raise money for the state had decided not to fulfil its financial obligations.
Hasan Sungurtekin, head of the Turkish Cypriot Realtors’ Association on Thursday said the real estate sales had suffered the biggest blow from the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to Kıbrıs Postası web TV, Sungurtekin argued the sector will not be able to recover from the crisis for the next two years.
“Not only there are no sales but the signed contracts are also being cancelled one after the other,” he stressed.
Sungurtekin also argued that the cabinet failed in its economic relief package.
The Hairdressers’ Association also expressed discontent with the economic measures in place.
The association on Thursday published a set of economic proposals for the authorities to take into consideration which included extending provisions in the economic relief package provisions on deferrals from three months to six months.
“As a result of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, it does not likely that the businesses will be able to financially recover within three months…To ensure the sustainability of all the sectors, the measures should be valid for six months,” the association argued.
Syrian migrants forgotten in İskele (Trikomo)Kıbrıs Postası
Migration and Citizenship, Human Rights
The Turkish Cypriot authorities have forgotten about the 175 undocumented Syrians, who were rescued on 22 March when their boat capsized 10m off the coast of the Karpaz (Karpasia) peninsula.
The group of undocumented migrants which includes 69 children and 30 women, had been placed at a nearby residential estate in İskele (Trikomo) which is being monitored by the police.
23 police officers have been assigned for the refugees in addition to the tens of municipal workers while the uncertainty over their fate prevails.
The state provides breakfast, lunch and dinner while other needs are covered by the İskele (Trikomo) municipality.
Even though the Syrian migrants had expressed the desire to go to the south to be united with their families, the law in force dictates they should be deported to Turkey.
However, it has been reported that neither Turkey nor the Greek Cypriot side is willing to accept the Syrian migrants due to the coronavirus pandemic.