In the press over the weekend and today:
Uproar for the bank in Stroumpi
Twelve community leaders whose communities are being served from the Hellenic Bank branch in Stroumpi have signed a request to reopen the branch. The document, “has been sent to the Director of Hellenic Bank in Paphos, and we have come together and we are asking the help of our MPs on this issue”. “Our countryside, and specifically the villages of Stroumpi, Giolou, Kathikas, Polemi, Theletra, Tsada, Miliou, Simou, Drymou, Drynia, Letympoy and Kalepia, have had no cases of the coronavirus and it is a shame that our residents have to go to Paphos in order to carry out their banking services and have them be afraid of returning to our communities carrying the virus”.
Peyia Municipality: Uproar for branch closure in the Municipality
In his statements, Mr Lambrou called on the management of Hellenic Bank to re-evaluate the issue, taking into account the risks that emerge as a result of this decision. Mr Lambrou stated that 20,000 citizens live in the municipality of Peyia, arguing that even if the measure is temporary due to the coronavirus pandemic, it creates a huge problem in the service of citizens regarding their banking transactions. Unfortunately, he continued, due to the citizens’ travel from Peyia to the branches in Paphos, it leads to overcrowding with all the negative consequences that it entails. He added that they are facing a huge problem with the pensioners of the Peyia Municipality, but also the vulnerable groups because of the reduction of Hellenic Bank branches in the area.
DIKO: It was wrong to close the branches of Hellenic Bank
On Friday (03/04), DIKO Vice President Antonis Antoniou said that Hellenic Bank’s decision to temporarily close its regional branches (branches of the former Co-op) is wrong. He said that these branches help serve hundreds of our fellow citizens, mostly pensioners, who are now being forced to travel to other cities, with all the ensuing dangers. He lastly called on the management of Hellenic bank to re-evaluate the issue, taking into consideration this decision’s subsequent dangers.
Hellenic Bank: Board of directors convenes on 15 April
Hellenic Bank announced that its board of directors will convene on Wednesday, 15 April 2020, to examine, among others, the Audited Financial Statements of the Hellenic Bank Group for the year which ended on 31 December 2019. The announcement of the Audited Financial Statements for that year will take place at the Cyprus Stock Exchange and the Hellenic Capital Market Commission on Thursday, 16 April 2020, before the start of the stock market meeting.
Hellenic Bank: Who is asking to suspend instalments
Hellenic Bank has received more than 6,000 applications to suspend mortgage payments and interest so far. According to the bank’s source that spoke to InBusinessNews, more than 9 out of 20 customers are approved because they meet the criteria of having their obligations settled. Reportedly, almost 75% involves retail banking and 25% involves businesses. From retail banking, 45% concerns consumer loans and car loans, 40% housing loans and 15% credit cards.
- Nicolaou: We need to preserve the “Cyprus Public”
The role of the BoC is to function as the bank of Cyprus. We will honour this responsibility, said BoC CEO Panicos Nicolaou in his message to the bank’s staff. In his letter, which refers to the Plan to tackle the pandemic that the bank has drawn up for the health and safety of both employees and citizens from the coronavirus. Mr. Nicolaou emphasised the need for protection inside and outside work for everyone, and pointed out the important role that the bank has to play for the economy and the development of the island.
Students given a thousand tablets by Bank of Cyprus
Bank of Cyprus and some of its partners donated 1000 tablets to the Ministry of Education in order to cover a part of the students’ needs during the crisis, on the basis of a study that was recently carried out at all of the schools of the country. To meet the needs, the Ministry will be accepting more donations over the coming days.
Ellinas Finance: Support Measures
Ellinas Finance Public Company LTD has eased payments for its borrowers, which includes, among other things, suspending instalments for a period of two months. According to the relevant announcement, the bank is looking at applications from its customers, for loans who have not had any delays in payments on 29/02/2020.
The virus has affected tax revenue
Tax revenue in March has hit rock bottom due to the coronavirus pandemic. The uncertainty, the fear and the restrictive measures have reduced tax revenues by €80m. Last year in March, state funds had reached €324,3m, compared to this year March’s tax revenues which stand at about €244m.
The Minister of Finance, Constantinos Petrides, speaking on “Show me the money” show of Politis 107.6, of announced the adjustment of the plans to support the economy, so that they are in line with the development of measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and to offer greater certainty to businesses and employees. The current one-month support package covers the period 16/03-12/04, meaning it expires in a week, and the need to expand it is obvious as according to medical estimates, it will take a few more weeks in order to contain the pandemic.
OEB call not to dismiss employees
In view of the revision of the government’s support plans for businesses, to which the Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides referred to while speaking on the show “Show me the money” of Politis 107.6, OEB President George Petrou called the members of his organisation to not proceed with dismissals of their employees. “We have reason to believe that in the next few days, decisions will be taken that will remove the painful dilemmas from businesses and strengthen the hope that the goal of the government, OEB and social partners that was set on 9 March, can really be achieved; no businesses bankruptcies and no dismissals of employees due to the coronavirus”, said Mr Petrou.
The tough battle for the economy
An opinion article by George Kentas, an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Nicosia. The current crisis has two dimensions; health and finance, which are connected. The necessary restrictive measures aimed at limiting and containing the spread of the virus have effects on the economy. Production and trade have declined, businesses and workers are being tested, public finances are being squeezed and fiscal data is being revised with a negative outlook. Along with the battle to fight the coronavirus, there is an equally fierce battle to control the negative effects on the economy. The purpose of this article is to present some data in relation to the recent estimates of the Cypriot Minister of Finance (5 April,2020) and the estimates of the Fitch Ratings report (3 April, 2020). Fitch analysts noted that public debt (GGGD) remains very high, at 95.5% of GDP in 2019. Public debt was burdened in 2018, with the sale of the former Cooperative Bank to Hellenic Bank by €3.19b, which corresponded to 15.5% of GDP.
The two largest banks alone received over 15,000 applications
The response of individuals and businesses to participate in the plan to suspend the repayment of instalments, based on the legislation recently passed by Parliament and the relevant decree issued by the Ministry of Finance, has exceeded the initial estimates of the banks. Despite the fact that the banks have not set a specific timetable regarding the submission of the relevant application, thousands of borrowers rushed to apply right from the start, mainly via e-mail. The two largest banks of the island, Bank of Cyprus and Hellenic Bank, have received around 15,000 applications up until Friday alone. In particular, Hellenic Bank had received more than 6,000 applications.
Cyprus Red Cross Society
The Cyprus Red Cross Society and Hellenic Bank have joined forces with a view to support and relieve vulnerable groups of the population and the elderly. Specifically, Hellenic Bank is financially supporting the Emergency Service of the Cyprus Red Cross Society to meet the basic needs of vulnerable groups and the elderly, who cannot go outside, through house deliveries of pharmaceuticals and essentials.
Supporting children who are staying home
Hellenic Bank is financially supporting the Fairy tale Museum so as to offer the beautiful actions “Fairy tales over the phone” and “Let me tell you a story” of the Fairy tale Museum, and allow fairy tales to continue to accompany little children and their parents while at home in a creative way.
Bank of Cyprus: Branch operations
Bank of Cyprus (BoC) encourages the public to use its digital channels (1bank) and limit its visits to the physical branches, following the instructions of the Ministry of Health. For instructions and support the public may contact the bank via phone, and all announcements relevant to the operation of the branches are published on the bank’s official website.
Pay through 1bank JCCsmart
BoC bring the Social Security service on our screens, with one click. By constantly looking for new ways to facilitate its customers through its digital channels, Bank of Cyprus now gives them the opportunity to carry out their obligations to the Social Insurance, from home through the 1bank Internet Mobile Banking by selecting JCCsmart Debt Payments. According to the announcement, “this is an option that keeps us safe in these unprecedented conditions we live in, given the restrictive measures in movement but also to avoid overcrowding indoors. We can easily and quickly pay from our mobile phone or computer, without any additional charge or passwords, using the cards of the BoC with one click”.
€213.3m surplus before the coronavirus
The balance of Cyprus recorded a reduction in government surplus before the coronavirus crisis. Preliminary fiscal results prepared by the Statistical Service for the period January-February 2020 showed a surplus of the Government of €212.3m (0.9% of the GDP) compared to a surplus of €410.8m in January-February 2019 (1.9% of the GDP).
Investment funds are a source of liquidity
All professionals are trying to predict the consequences from the coronavirus pandemic. The only possible solution is the search for new opportunities. At the financial level, sector professionals are looking at the future compared to health professionals who are looking at the present. The sector of investment funds, which has been rapidly developing over recent years, may come out as a winner from the coronavirus battle. The President of the Cyprus Investment Funds Association (CIFA) Andreas Yiasemides said, “the crisis is a fact; we are experiencing it and we are waiting to see how the situation will develop”. At the same time however, he estimates that the sector of investment funds will come out “victorious” from this battle, and that Cyprus has the capacity to utilise this opportunity.
€1b domestic bond within the week
The Republic of Cyprus will proceed with a domestic loan from Cypriot banks within the week. According to information, the loan will be €1b so as to serve the financial needs of the state that will arise as a result of the lockdown which will continue in April. The domestic borrowing of the state is based on domestic financial institutions. All banks now have increased liquidity and it is a given, that there will be an agreement on refinancing, especially now that the state forces needs to reorganised in order to deal with the effects of the coronavirus. Following the government’s implementation of the €700+100m package to minimise as much as possible the financial consequences of the health crisis brought by the coronavirus, it was a given that the state would proceed with additional borrowing, as stated by Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides.
The division over the Eurobond rages on
At a time when the division within the EU is erupting over the issuance of a Eurobond, Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen is announcing a European Marshall Plan to boost investment. Ursula von der Leyen described the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) as the most powerful tool at the moment, emphasizing that “we want to shape the MFF in such a way that it is an important part of the recovery plan. Many are currently talking about what they call Marshall Plan. I believe that the European budget should be the Marshall Plan that we are drawing up as the EU for the European nations”.
Thousands of borrowers rush to apply for suspension of loans instalments
The number of applications for the suspension of loan instalments by businesses and households, have exceeded all expectations. Interested individuals and businesses kept on sending out applications via email this weekend. As of early Friday, over 15,000 applications were submitted and this number is expected to increase further. As of midday on Friday, BoC had received about 8,500 and Hellenic Bank received more than 6,000 applications. On its part, Bank of Cyprus in its first data release, said that 80% of its applications are individuals, 20% are businesses and 65% are mortgages. Hellenic Bank reports that 9 out of 10 applications are approved because they have discharged their obligations. 75% of the applications concern retail banking loans and 25% concern business loans. 40% of applications under the retail banking category are housing loans, 45% are consumer and vehicle purchase loans and 15% are credit cards. The clients of smaller local banks have also demonstrated a huge interest to participate in the scheme. The House Finance Corporation, received 1,200 applications as of Friday, according to the statement of the director-general of the HFC, Andreas Georgiou. Even if the qualitative data have not been released yet, the banks report that some applications concern loans that were given in the past three to five years. ETYK, in its recent circular, reports that it is expected that more than 250,000 people (borrowers and guarantors) will be immediately asked to the banks, in order to sign the relevant documents. This assistance towards the banks’ customers concerns two pillars. Firstly, postponing instalments and secondly, finding a way to tackle the liquidity problem. Today, the Finance Minister is expected to propose, alternative measures to boost the state’s liquidity, to the parties. DISY’s spokesman Demetris Demetriou notes that at this point we must urgently proceed with the bill that will give us a way to tackle the liquidity issue. He notes that “we need to make use of the government’s proposal and provide the SMEs also with this possibility, in an effort to tackle the current situation. It is a measure that is already implemented in many EU countries, in an attempt to immediately boost the market’s liquidity. The state will neither give money nor will it provide a guarantee to the banks. The borrowers are the ones who will be guaranteed in this difficult situation”. Yesterday, AKEL’s spokesman Stefanos Stefanou, said before opposition parties were given the opportunity to submit their economic and social proposals, the Finance Minister said they are completely unrealistic and that their implementation will lead to a default
AstroBank: Additional measures to protect and assist customers
As of 31 March 2020, AstroBank will be taking additional measures at its branches, with a view to better serve its customers, while prioritising the health and safety of its customers and personnel amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Specifically, every day from 8am until 10pm, only customers over 60 years old and the vulnerable, as defined in the announcements of the Ministry of Health, will be served at the branches. The following transactions will be carried out at the branches of the Bank: •Cash withdrawals/deposits •Cheque deposits/cashing services •Order/delivery of debit cards, credit cards, cheque books and e-banking codes – Winbank. Winbank codes as well as credit cards will be ordered, issued and delivered to the customers within 15 minutes •Internal transfers to AstroBank accounts and outgoing remittances. An appointment with the Branch will be required to open a new account and visit your safety-deposit box. Contact information for each Branch is available on our website www.astrobank.com It is reminded that the following measures are already being taken at AstroBank’s branches: •The flow of customers within the branches is being managed and monitored so as to protect staff and customers •Special signs have been placed on the floor to ensure customers and staff keep a safe distance between them •All areas within the branches are vigorously and continuously cleaned and disinfected every day •Hand sanitisers are available in all areas within the branches for customers, while staff are provided with gloves. The Bank has also installed special glass barriers between staff and customers at all of its branches. To ensure increased protection and a swifter service, customers are encouraged to use the Bank’s digital channels: •Free cash withdrawals with debit cards from our Branch Network’s ATMs as well as the 350+ ATMs of the Euronet network island-wide. •Free cash deposits at our Branch Network’s ATMs. •Transactions via Internet/Mobile Banking (Winbank). •Use of the SKASH Digital Wallet to transfer money instantly to other individuals, whether they are customers of the Bank or not (www.skash.com). •Payments by contactless cards, instead of cash. Furthermore, up until 30 April 2020, the Bank will be immediately issuing debit cards without charge to customers who have misplaced them, while it will also be re-issuing Internet Banking PINs, free of charge.
RCB Bank donates 12 ventilators to Cyprus healthcare battle
RCB Bank has purchased 12 new ventilators that have arrived from China for the Cyprus health system to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. “With the needs of the National Health System and those of the people of Cyprus in mind, the ventilators were delivered to the representatives of the Republic of Cyprus in China and have now arrived in the country with the charter flight that the authorities arranged,” said an RCB statement. Ventilators are in extremely high demand worldwide right now. “RCB, as a Cypriot bank, has worked hard in securing this much-needed new equipment to enhance the abilities of the health system to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the bank said. RCB Bank has also purchase medical face shields, which are manufactured in Limassol, “with the well-being of the medical forces fighting the Coronavirus in the hospitals of Cyprus in mind”. CEO of RCB Bank Dr Kirill Zimarin said: “Cyprus is our homeland and in this collective effort to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, we could not have remained passive.” “We, therefore, took initiative from the very beginning and strove to find ventilators, which constitute vital equipment at this difficult time.” “Health is priceless, and we all have a duty to contribute whatever and however we can in securing that Cyprus has the necessary tools to deal with the pandemic as effectively as possible. “
Talks on business liquidity mechanism enter final stretch
Negotiations between Finance Ministry and the parties, have entered the final stretch, in relation to the mechanism that will be used to boost the liquidity of businesses and the self-employed, in an effort to tackle the impact of the coronavirus. Today, political parties are expected to submit their proposals to the House Finance Committee in order to improve the bill, which concerns the provision of state guarantees to the banks of up to €2b, in order to promote lending as well as other proposals such as the creation of mechanism to directly support businesses and households. Next, the suggestions and proposals will be submitted to the Finance Ministry for review with a view to take decisions the soonest possible. It should be noted that two or more mechanisms may be promoted, as all indications point to the fact that the coronavirus crisis will continue even after the restriction measures are lifted. Besides, the tourism sector has lost millions in proceeds, while the sector’s recovery over the summer period is doubtful, since it will depend on the course of the pandemic in the remaining countries and especially the UK.
Ancoria Bank: Open an account from home free of charge
Immediately responding to the new challenges and situation that has emerged, Ancoria Bank introduces new technologies to better serve the public. Taking into account the safety of both the customers as well as the personnel, Ancoria Bank is the first bank in Cyprus to offer account opening through the mobile phone App, without a need for an on-site visit by the interest individual. With the Ancoria Bank Create App, individuals can easily open an account without visiting the bank. In this way, everything will be completed digitally and customers will get their credit card sent to their homes by post without an additional charge. It should be noted that the bank may request more information and documents, for KYC purposes by phone and applications need to be approved by the Bank.
Labour insecurity due to the coronavirus pandemic
Phileleftheros reports that people who work during the coronavirus crisis are facing many difficulties. On the one hand there is the work load, combined with adhering to protection measures, especially in sectors that serve customers. At the same time, thousands of employees are worried about the economic crisis and the aftermath of the pandemic. The Secretary General of the Private Employees’ Federation Elisseos Michael told Phileleftheros that businesses are adhering to all the hygiene rules, as well as all the necessary measures defined by the state. However, he noted that retail employees have experienced physical and psychological tiredness and the closure of branches on Sundays gave them some time to rest. The most important thing however is the aftermath, as we still don’t know the extent of the crisis. He wonders whether businesses operating in the tourism sector will open in May, June or July and how the situation will be shaped for thousands of employees and businesses. The secretary-general of PEO, Pambis Kyritis told Phileleftheros that employees, especially in retail are extremely pressured, the working hours are exhausting and that the closure of stores on Sundays will help alleviate the situation. There is no question about the maintenance of hygiene rules, but he notes that employees are anxious about the next day and the extent and duration of the crisis.
State guarantees and direct lending to a lesser extent
The Cyprus Home Protection Association believes that the government and parties must look into the possibility of simultaneously implementing the measures of state guarantees and direct state lending to a smaller degree. “With the immediate and simultaneous implementation of the two measures, we will maintain the flexibility we will need for the coming months, without jeopardising the state’s funds”, the association says in an announcement. “A more limited degree of state lending will allow some breathing space for households and businesses over the next months, while the simultaneous provision of state guarantees of less than €2b, which is the state’s intention at the moment, will oblige credit institutions to provide businesses with liquidity under very beneficial terms, ensuring that credit institutions contribute and cover 30% of losses in this effort”, they add.
Loan suspension will be free
With their decision to further relax the accounting treatment of moratoriums in the payment of loan instalments, the supervisory bodies showed that they will exhaust every tool available, in order to help businesses and households. The implementation of general moratoriums is not the same as loan restructuring, and as such the banks are not obliged to evaluate the potential of reducing the net current value of loan facilities, the CBC’s circular reports. In practice, this means that the loan suspension will take place with no cost to the borrowers, and as such interest rates will not be compounded. Already, the Cyprus Banks Association on Friday, published the fact that suspended loans will not be compounded. Apart from the loan and interest suspension, the interest rates of loans eligible for suspension according to the decree will not be compounded.
Petrides: April will be worse in terms of revenue
The Finance Minister told Phileleftheros that he expects that the Cyprus economy will fall into deep recession, as he is to be over 10% of the country’s GDP. According to Petrides, April is expected to be worse than March in terms of cash revenues for the state, since due to the coronavirus the country is producing very few products, while many sectors of the economy have suspended their operation. The Finance Minister likened the condition of the economy to a wartime situation, saying that the citizens must expect an impact both on the public finances as well as the public debt, since all the resources in this period are spent on healthcare. According to Petrides, the parameter that will define the macroeconomic impact will be the duration of the battle against the coronavirus. He also sent the message to the citizens that the better the measures are implemented, the smoother the economic situation. He himself believes that with the lift of restrictive measures, the country will recover suddenly and to a great extent.
Salaries in Cyprus are 40% lower than EU average
Salaries in Cyprus are 40% lower than the EU average according to Eurostat. The study is based on 2019 data and concerns the labour cost, such as employer social insurance contributions, excluding the sectors of public administration and agriculture. According to the information, the average hourly labour cost in Cyprus is €17,4 compared with €27,7 in the EU and €31,4 in the Euro area. This means that salaries in Cyprus are 37.2% lower compared to the EU average and 44.6% lower compared with the Euro area average.
Energean: Significant progress in the development of the Karish field in Israel
Greece’s Energean announced that its Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) hull sailed away from the COSCO yard in China on 3 April. According to Energean the hull will now be towed to the Sembcorp Marine Admiralty Yard in Singapore, where the topsides will be integrated, before the completed FPSO is towed to the Karish field in Israel for installation and hook-up. “The sailaway of the hull from China represents the achievement of a key milestone in the Karish project timetable,” Energean said in a press release. Energean said the company has also successfully completed the drilling of the three development wells in the Karish Main field. It is further noted that a few days ago, the pipeline (pipes with a diameter of 30 and 24 inches), which is to be installed in Israel, was offloaded at Limassol port In the coming days, the 90km pipeline will be transported on a special ship to Israel, where it will connect the FPSO “Energean Power” with the onshore natural gas facilities in the Dor region.
Post offices are checked for drug trafficking
The closure of all entry points to the Republic as well as the crossing points could lead drug traffickers to seek alternative ways of importing drugs. So the Drug Squad is taking precautionary measures. It said that the closure of the airports and ports due to the coronavirus would lead drug dealers to find other ways to import drugs, such as through the post offices and couriers. So it is focusing its efforts on monitoring packages arriving in Cyprus to ensure it keeps the situation under control.
Navtex war over Russian exercises in the EEZ
Turkey is clearly perplexed by aeronautical exercises that are currently being carried out by Russia in our region, for which the Republic of Cyprus issued Navtex and Notam notices on behalf of the Russian navy and aviation. As of today, and on various dates up until 30 April, Russia will be carrying out aeronautical exercises in three large areas east, south and west of Cyprus. The first Navtex is for exercises on 9, 17 and 30 April in the area between Cyprus and Syria, where the Russian navy will regularly carry out exercises. The second area, for exercises on 7 and 21 April, is west of Cyprus and within 40 nautical miles from Kastellorizo, which prompted Turkey to issue its own Navtex, saying this falls within Turkey’s jurisdiction. It is worth noting that the Turkish Navtex does not describe Cyprus’ Navtex as invalid, but says that it will re-issue this part of the Cypriot Navtexv as it is within its own area of responsibility. The third area is a large expanse south of Cyprus, which includes a small part of block 8 and a large part of block 9 of the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Turkey’s reaction to this area is interesting, as it issued a Navtex that does not cancel the Cypriot one, as it has reacted in such situations so far, but saying that it includes part of the area that was committed by a Turkish Navtex, for where the Yavuz is illegally drilling in block 9. The area where the Russian exercises will take place is three nautical miles from where the Yavuz is.
EEZ drilling in quarantine too
The coronavirus has also impacted on the energy sector, and the oil and natural gas exploration and exploitation industry. Under normal circumstances, the Republic of Cyprus would have been preparing in early April for the drilling in the Kronos target of the Cyprus EEZ, which belongs to the Eni-Total consortium. However, well-placed sources from the Energy Ministry tell Simerini newspaper that even though there have been no official consultations or updates from the companies, it is considered extremely difficult for the initial timeframes to be kept. The sources said they were expecting new dates to be announced, once the turmoil from the pandemic has been overcome. The biggest obstacle for the drilling, not just in Cyprus but globally, is the restrictions that have been imposed on movement. This means it is difficult for the supporting vessels to reach the drilling rigs. Also, crews working on the rigs must be replaced at regular intervals, which is difficult considering they have to go in quarantine for 14 days upon entering the Republic.
The coronavirus pandemic has left is mark on Cyprus’ energy programme, Kathimerini comments. The government is not optimistic the drilling activities that were meant to begin in late April will go ahead. It is estimated that the Eni-Total drilling will be moved to the summer; but this is not a given. Government sources say that even if the most optimistic scenario happens and the pandemic ends in May, operations can’t begin straight away. The two companies are not in a position to offer any information either, as the drillship is currently in Lebanon and the epidemic is affecting its operations.
European programme CYnergy with the participation of DEFA was presented
With all eyes on the new energy era that Cyprus is entering, the presentation of the European programme CYnergy, entitled “Shaping the energy future of Cyprus” was presented online on 30 March, with the participation of institutional bodies and energy market stakeholders. According to a press release by Natural Gas Public Company (DEFA), this is a very important programme for Cyprus, as it opens the way for the island to come in line with the rest of Europe and lays the foundations for the arrival of LNG to the country, thus contributing to its energy security.
The National Betting Authority draws attention to illegal gabling
Following the suspension of operations of betting agencies due to the measures to protect the public health from the new coronavirus, and the obvious shift of many players to online betting, the National Betting Authority is drawing attention to the negative consequences of online betting. In fact, it warns that the reduced offering of betting products as a result of the postponement of the vast majority of championships around the world may push a part of the population to participate in illegal gambling. It therefore advises the public to take certain issues seriously before placing a bet, among others, find out about the legal companies that provide online betting services on the Authority’s website www.nba.gov.cy. Participation in an illegal bet is a criminal offense and is punishable by up to one year in prison and / or a fine of up to 50,000 euro. When betting on legitimate companies, the users should make sure that the money they have deposited is safe and their personal data is secure.
Aiming for new markets
Given the huge losses expected from this year’s tourism season, which could be lost in its entirety, Deputy Minister of Tourism Savvas Perdios has stressed the need for all tourism stakeholders to redefine their objectives and for the new National Tourism Strategy to be implemented up until 2030, so that the industry has a future. In a letter sent last Friday to the hoteliers’ associations, hotel managers’ association, tour operators’ associations and the districts’ tourism boards, Perdios said that everything had changed over the past month, because of the coronavirus pandemic. What hasn’t changed, he said, is the deputy ministry’s determination to implement its tourism strategy. He attached a summary of the new strategy, calling on everyone involved to pay special attention to unit 2, which refers to the deputy ministry’s aim to target new markets over the coming decade. “The time has come for each business to decide which age groups, ethnicities and specialist tour operators it wants to target,” he said. He included information for the development of new markets in the Middle East and Gulf (particularly Israel, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon), as well as the development of “over 50s” and “long stayers” tourism.
Difficult days are coming for the economy
Economist and former director of the Planning Bureau Symeon Matsis tells Alithia newspaper that difficult days are on the way for the Cyprus economy, because of the coronavirus pandemic. On the topic of tourism, he said that assuming that Cyprus’ airports will be closed to airlines over the next three to four months, or up until July, which is the island’s peak tourism season and makes up 50% of the year’s tourist arrivals, “there will certainly be a significant impact on tourism, which could drop by 40% – 70% compared with last year’s tourism season”. This in turn will have a significant impact on the overall economy, he said.
Airlines raise the alarm
The air transport sector is going through an unprecedented crisis, brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. On an international level, the International Air Transport Association has said that over €250 billion will be lost in 2020 because of the virus, with the ball being in the governments’ court to financially support the industry. Airports are also recording losses. According to ACI, it is estimated that there will be a 38.1% drop in travel movement this year, while the airline industry is anticipating a 45% drop – which in real numbers translates to $76 billion. But one thing is for certain: travel movement is not expected to return to normalcy as soon as the ban on flights is lifted. Stakeholders of the airline industry in Cyprus estimate that it will take a lot before people start travelling again, and in the meantime, airlines will need incentives and time to get back on their feet. Similar losses are being recorded by tour operators. In February, they recorded a 30% drop in turnover, while in March as well as April, the losses could actually be 100%. Meanwhile, Cyprus Airways is calling on the government to react swiftly, not just to support airlines, but also the tourism sector in general. The company’s CEO, George Mavrokostas, said that such measures could include tax rebates up until December 2020, discounts on airport and passenger taxes, reduction of landing costs, and other measures based on the instructions of IATA.
Lady’s Mile facelift remains on ice
It is looking highly unlikely that the project to upgrade the Lady’s Mile area in Limassol will go ahead any time soon; not so much because it is within the area controlled by the British Bases, but more so because of the coronavirus pandemic. Haravgi writes that this will further reinforce the government’s longstanding excuse that it does not have sufficient funds to implement the project. In a response to Limassol MP George Georgiou, the Town-planning Department says among other that the final decision on when the project will go ahead will be made by the Interior Ministry, as the area does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Limassol Municipality.
Paphos on the nautical map
Paphos may be one of the towns with the most confirmed coronavirus cases, however it had some positive tourism-related news on Friday. The Deputy Ministry of Tourism announced that it would launch the procedure to purchase the services of expert advisors-surveyors, to examine the combined development of a marina and the infrastructure to host cruise ships in Kissonerga. The main objective of the study, according to the deputy ministry, is to see whether it is feasible and viable to combine the two developments in the specific region. The results of the study and the experts’ recommendations on the best possible option will be submitted to the Cabinet for final approval, it said.
Medical supplies, equipment airlifted to Cyprus
A special Aegean flight landed at Larnaca Airport on Saturday night bringing much needed medical equipment and supplies from China. The airplane landed a little after 8 pm and unloading started immediately. It brought 17 tons of medical equipment ordered by the Health Ministry — surgical masks and other protective personal equipment (PPE) such as gowns and glasses as well as 12 ventilators. Another delivery of medical equipment is due from China on Thursday, the Cyprus News Agency reports. The flight was offered by Aegean and Hellenic Petroleum. President Nicos Anasrasiades has thanked both companies for their generous contribution. In a message on Twitter, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou also thanked the two companies for generously offering the flight.
Study suggests smoking NOT linked to COVID-19 severity
A study published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine (Lippi G, Henry BH. Eur J Intern Med. 2020:doi:10.1016/j.ejim.2020.03.014) rebuts what has been previously said in recent months about smoking being linked to COVID-19 severity. The researchers, based on preliminary study of the results, suggest that there is no correlation between the two. A previous study in China with a sample of 44,672 patients, reported higher mortality in men than women. “In trying to explain this finding, some scientists have suggested that it was due to the higher incidence of co-morbidities of lung damage, such as smoking, among men”, said Giuseppe Lippi, MD of the Department of Clinical Biochemistry. It is worth noting that in China, 52.1% of men are smokers compared to women smokers, who are only 2. 7% of the population. Analysing all their data, the scientists concluded that active smoking was not a significant prognostic factor for the development of serious incidence of COVID-19, since only one of the five studies found a positive correlation.