COVID-19: Cyprus Government’s support measuresAndreas Ioannou
LEGAL PARTNERS, ORPHANIDES, CHRISTOFIDES & CO LLC
In response to COVID-19 outbreak, the Government of Cyprus has declared a State of Emergency on 16th March 2020 and an almost total lockdown was imposed. On 29th April 2020, the Government announced a gradual easing of lockdown measures, starting on 4th May 2020.
Gatherings at any residence excluding permanent residents, are still prohibited.
The night-time curfew hours have been modified and now any movement of persons between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. is prohibited, except for people moving for employment reasons, provided that they carry a Confirmation of Movement of an Employee certificate (Form A).
Any unjustified movement of persons is still prohibited. People are allowed to move only for certain reasons which include employment, medical/pharmaceutical services, food or other supplies, bank services and physical exercise. Everyone should send an SMS to 8998 and wait for a confirmation in order to proceed with any of the above activities. People over 65 can alternatively, use a hard copy of the Form B. Since 4/05/2020 everyone is allowed to move three times a day.
Regarding those who do not comply with the above directions, the consequences remain the same. In cases of unjustified movement, a fine of 300,00 EUR is imposed for the first offence. Those who offence the above provisions for the second time, will be sent to court and are subject to a fine of up to €3000 and/or imprisonment for three months.
From 4/05/2020 the Public and the wider Public Sector will be fully operational. Schools will reopen on 11/05/2020 for all students attending their senior year of high school, so they can graduate normally. Schools, kindergartens and nurseries, both public and private, will remain closed until 31/05/2020.
All retail stores excluding malls and big department stores, tourist and travel agencies are permitted to open, whilst some businesses, such as restaurants, cafes, cinemas, gyms, airlines, hotels, hair salons, spas etc remain closed. Pharmacies, supermarkets, grocers, convenience stores, bakeries and butchers are permitted to remain open.
It is safe to say that the coronavirus outbreak has affected almost every sector of the economy. Some businesses have been forced to completely suspend their operations whilst some other businesses though still in operation, are experiencing severe economic loss. Thus, a series of financial measures is taken, aiming to relief the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy.
Financial Support Programme
The Government has announced a support programme, which includes the following:
- Special Scheme for Partial Suspension of Business Operations and provision of a Special Unemployment Benefit, valid from 13/04/2020 to 12/05/2020.
This scheme is valid for businesses that have partially suspended their operations and have suffered or expect to suffer a loss of more than 25% of their turnover due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
For businesses employing up to 50 employees, 75% of them can receive the unemployment benefit, whereas for those employing more than 50 employees, 60% of them can receive the unemployment benefit.
In any of the above-mentioned cases, directors, shareholders and partners are excluded.
For businesses employing up to 9 persons, all the employees can receive the unemployment benefit, regardless of their status.
- Special Scheme for Total Suspension of Business Operations, valid from 13/04/2020 to 12/05/2020
The scheme is valid for businesses that have mandatorily suspended their operations following the Governments’ orders and for businesses that their operations are connected to the operations of mandatorily closed businesses and have suffered a loss of more than 80% of their turnover due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
For businesses employing more than 9 people, the 90% of the employees can obtain the special unemployment benefit. The remaining 10% shall include managing shareholders, partners holding more than 20% of the shares, general managers and senior executives.
In the case of businesses employing 9 people or fewer, all employees shall be entitled to the benefit, regardless of their status.
The basic requirement for participation in both schemes mentioned above, is that no employee has been fired since 1/03/2020. Furthermore, if a business’ application is approved, no employee shall be dismissed (excluding, for disciplinary reasons) during the period of participation in the scheme or during an additional period equal to the period of participation, plus one additional month.
- Special Scheme for self-employed workers, valid from 13/04/2020 to 12/05/2020
The Scheme is valid for:
(i) all self-employed workers that have completely suspended their operations following the Governments’ orders
(ii) all self-employed workers that their operations are related to mandatorily closed businesses and have suffered a loss of more than 80% of their turnover due to the COVID-19 pandemic
(iii) all self-employed workers that have partially suspender their operations and have suffered a loss of more than 25% of their turnover due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Special Allowance for Self-employed Workers shall amount to 60% of the worker’s insurable earnings, based on which the worker was paying contributions to the Social Insurance Fund for the fourth trimester of 2019. The Special Allowance cannot be less than €300 or more than €900 per month.
- “Special Leave”, valid from 13/04/2020 to 12/05/2020
Due to the suspension of all schools’, nurseries’ and kindergartens’ operations, parents employed in the private sector can ask for a special leave in order to take care of children up to 15 years old or special needs children, regardless of their age.
The plan is valid only for those with a salary of up to €2.500 per month. An allowance of 60% on the first €1000 will be paid, and on the next €1000 an allowance of 40% will apply. For single parents, an allowance of 70% on the first €1000 will be paid, and on the next €1000 an allowance of 50% will apply.
- Special sick leave allowance, valid from 13/04/2020 to 12/05/2020
The allowance applies for private sector employees or self-employed persons who are having health issues, such as persons that belong to vulnerable groups as described by the Ministry of Health or persons subject to compulsory or self-isolation or persons infected by the COVID-19.