Cabinet has approved the framework for a lockdown exit strategy, starting with the gradual opening of businesses in key sectors of the economy in the beginning of May, depending on epidemiological developments, Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides said on Wednesday.
He said the strategy aimed at the gradual easing of the restrictive measures and the re-starting of the economy in three phases up to end of 2021.
In statements to CNA, he urged everyone to comply with the lockdown, particularly over Easter, so that the plan can be implemented.
With the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing and the economic cost spiraling, a number of EU countries have started planning their strategy to gradually lift the restrictions while the EU Commission has issued guidance so that there is coordination to avoid one country negatively impacting the other, he said.
“A healthy functioning economy is a necessary prerequisite for a working health system,” he said.
The strategy has three basic stages and progressing from one to the other will to a large extent be determined by the epidemiological data.
Stage one is the restrictive measures and support for the economy which are currently in force.
Stage two involves the gradual opening of companies which is anticipated to begin around the start of May for crucial sectors of the economy and based on epidemiological data in a coordinated way so as not to endanger the effort to contain the virus.
“In order for businesses to gradually reopen, the epidemiological data must be satisfied, for example fewer cases, the adequacy of the health system and thirdly systematic monitoring through a large number of tests,” he said.
Regarding the selection of the categories, another four criteria should be taken into consideration: the risk of Covid-19 infection, the risk of serious illness from Covid-19, the comparative importance of the sector to the economy and social life and finally the ability to impose and maintain safety measures.
These measures can vary depending on the geographic area, the groups of citizens, the sectors of social life and the economic sectors. Moreover, the inter-dependence of the various businesses and sectors of the economy as well as social interactions will also be taken into consideration.
The third stage is restarting the economy — that is the period between September 2020 and December 2021.
“The strategy must be flexible and adapted depending on the epidemiological data, allowing for economic activity without unnecessary health risks,” he said.
This will include support for viable companies, measures in sectors most affected, development of digital technology, support for those that can maintain the most jobs and boosting demand.
A ministerial committee has been set up chaired by Petrides with the participation of the ministers of health, energy, transport and labour and the deputy ministers of research and tourism.
An advisory committee will also be set up with the participation of the epidemiological monitoring unit of the Health Ministry.
With the support of the advisory committee, the ministerial committee will then prepare a strategic plan and a plan of action to submit the Council of Ministers by the end of April.