COVID-19: Cyprus Government’s support measures

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. Since then, an almost total lockdown is imposed.

Gatherings at any residence is prohibited, excluding permanent residents.

A night-time curfew has been imposed. Any movement of persons between 9 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 prohibited. People are allowed to move only for certain reasons which include employment, medical/pharmaceutical services, food 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. Everyone is allowed to move only once a day.

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.

The Minister of health has ordered all schools, kindergartens and nurseries, both public and private, to fully suspend their operations. There was an operation suspension order for some businesses, such as restaurants, cafes, cinemas, gyms, airlines, hotels, travel agencies and all retail goods and services businesses such as hairdressers, betting shops, spas etc.  Pharmacies, ssupermarkets, 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 are taken, aiming to relief the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy. 

Financial Support Programme/ Labour Law 

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 16/03/2020 to 12/04/2020.

 

This scheme is valid for businesses that have partially suspended their operations and have suffered 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.

 

  • Special Scheme for Total Suspension of Business Operations, valid from 16/03/2020 to 12/04/2020

 

The scheme is valid for businesses that have mandatorily suspended their operations following the Governments’ orders. The 90% of these businesses’ employees can obtain the special unemployment benefit which amounts to 60% of their regular salary. 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 16/03/2020 to 12/04/2020

 

The Scheme is valid for all self-employed workers that have completely suspended their operations following the Governments’ orders and for 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”

 

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.  

For those with a salary of up to €2.500, an allowance of 60% on the first €1000 will be paid, and on the next €1000 an allowance of 40% will apply.

 

  • Postponement of Payments and Obligations / Tax Issues 

 

In addition to schemes to employees as prescribed above a number of measures aimed at retaining or improving the business cashflow have been enforced: 

  1. Extension for payment of social insurance contributions for 2 months in respect of payments of March and April 2020. 
  2.  A three-month postponement for payment of VAT for the periods ending February-April 2020. Businesses have been permitted to pay gradually until 10.11.2020. 
  3. Tax levy or annual corporate fee has been postponed until 31.12.2020.
  4.  Postponement of all loan payments and interests for a nine month duration for all clients who are up to date with their loan terms. 

 

  • Litigation 

 

All court proceedings and any action before the Courts (including filing of actions or originating summons) have been effectively suspended, with the exception of emergency orders or injunctions.  As a result, the Supreme Court have also suspended all deadlines deriving from Civil Procedure Rules until 30.4.2020. Exemption to this suspension are all matters related and governed either by the Constitution or special legislation.

 

  • Data Protection 

 

The Cyprus DPA adopted in total the EDPB Statement on the processing of personal data in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.  Particularly the data controllers and processors must ensure the protection of the personal data of the data subjects. Therefore, a number of considerations should be taken into account to guarantee the lawful processing of personal data and in all cases it should be recalled that any measure taken in this context must respect the general principles of law and must not be irreversible. Emergency is a legal condition which may legitimise restrictions of freedoms provided these restrictions are proportionate and limited to the emergency period.

 

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