‘WE DESPERATELY NEED YOUR HELP’
Taken from this week's issue
By GÜLDEREN ÖZTANSU
BUSINESSES and charities have told Cyprus Today they are enduring some of the toughest economic times ever experienced in North Cyprus as the country was plunged into a new nationwide lockdown on Thursday.
Ministers decided to extend the lockdown that had been implemented in the Girne and Lefkoşa districts earlier this week after a record 52 Covid-19 cases were recorded on Wednesday.
Under the decisions, based on recommendations made by the Communicable Diseases High Committee, which will be reviewed on Tuesday, all non-essential businesses and activities have been suspended until at least 11.59pm on Wednesday, February 3. For the Girne district the lockdown will be in force until at least 11.59pm on Wednesday, February 10, due to the high number of cases there.
People are only allowed out to visit shops and services deemed essential, such as chemists, banks, markets, bakeries, butchers, petrol stations and the like.
Butchers, supermarkets and other small businesses that provide essential goods and services are allowed to open from 6am to 7pm, while restaurant delivery services are allowed until 11.59pm. Special permission is needed to leave home for any other purpose or to travel to another district, by filling an online form at permissions.gov.ct.tr/street. A night-time curfew is in place from 8pm to 5am.
Cyprus Today spoke to a number of businesses, charities and organisations this week for their views on the lockdown and how they are coping financially.
Raziye Kocaismail, head of the Help Those with Cancer Association (Tulips), said that the charity “has never had such a heavy burden and hopelessness in the 30 years it has existed”.
“Our association has survived with the help of supporters in the past years,” Mrs Kocaismail said.
“We cover a lot of costs for cancer patients, from medical bills to psychological help. We used to hold events such as plays, concerts and balls.
“We haven’t held a major event for the past year. Our income has fallen by 10 per cent and this is really pushing us.”
Mrs Kocaismail said the new lockdown could provide an opportunity for people to “declutter” their homes and donate any unwanted items that the charity could then sell to raise income.
She also thanked everyone for their support “especially the British community who have also been affected by the pandemic”.
“We are having a really hard time, we are struggling to carry out our functions, and struggling with unbelievable troubles that are hard to express,” she said. “We feel that we are lonely so I would like to thank everyone who has donated.”
“I know that . . . there is hardship, but please I am calling on everyone to donate. You can donate goods you don’t use anymore, we need that to survive. God help us.”
Margaret Ray, head of the Kyrenia Animal Rescue Center (KAR), said the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted them “a great deal”.
With their charity shops closed, which were a “big source of income” and “no events to raise money” KAR has struggled financially.
Mrs Ray added that people also tend to donate when they visit the rescue centre, another avenue of income that is currently unavailable to KAR.
While KAR workers have obtained special permission to take care of the animals at the rescue centre, Mrs Ray hopes that stray animals, who are usually fed outside offices, markets and various other businesses, will not be forgotten during the lockdown
“We are doing what we can to look after the animals,” she said. “[The pandemic] is taking a toll on everybody. People are hit financially in lots of different places. Shop donations are down compared to previous years.
“Another thing is people aren’t giving out many clothes, I guess because they aren’t shopping as much. But it is hard to judge because we no longer have events where they can donate.”
Esat Muhtaroğlu, owner of the Bluesong Restaurant Café Bar in Lapta, said that he has seen a 50 per cent fall in demand, which he linked to the lack of tourists since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
“We will be challenged by the lockdown . . . but we need a full lockdown otherwise cases will not go down. . . A 15-day lockdown one month ago would have prevented this.”
Katerina Akpençe, owner of The Lodge restaurant in Çatalköy, said: “[The Covid-19 pandemic] has made everything awful. There is no money, no customers, rent must be paid, workers need to be paid . . . everyone is in need [of their income]. There is no help.”
Amy Hoarn, of the Old Mill in Ozanköy, said that the pandemic has had a “knock-on effect on everybody and it’s tough for everyone”.
Cyprus Turkish Chamber of Commerce head Turgay Deniz said his organisation supported a “full lockdown” but added: “The government has still not made plans for how they are going to support the private sector.
“They have cut the salaries of public sector workers by 10.6 per cent, for a period of three months. We hope that the money saved will be used to help private sector businesses and workers, who will face a catastrophic situation with such a lockdown if they aren’t supported.” Cyprus Turkish Hoteliers’ Union head Dimağ Çağıner said: “We will be closing down for no reason if appropriate planning is not done to vaccinate the majority of the population, which should be completed prior to ending the lockdown.”
Cyprus Turkish Travel Agents’ Union head Orhan Tolun, said: “Locking down Girne and Lefkoşa alone was insufficient. Allowing certain sectors to remain open inevitably meant that the virus continued to spread.
“Then they [ministers] complain that the reason there is a spike [in cases] is because people aren’t adhering to the rules.
“The government waited too long [to impose a lockdown] because of a backlash from the private sector, which is in need of support. . . They need to tell the country how each worker and business is going to survive without work in a lockdown period.”
The mayors of Lapta and Alsancak – who last week called for a lockdown of the Girne area – said the move had turned into a “joke”.
“Hardware shops, construction sites, electrical stores . . . were all open [earlier] this week,” Alsancak Mayor Fırat Ataser said.
“So we welcome this strict [national] lockdown but it must be enforced.”
Speaking earlier this week Lapta Mayor Mustafa Aktuğ said: “The streets are still full of people and cars. What sort of a lockdown is this? . . The government waited too long to act.”
British Residents Society chairman Peter Wilkins said: “I personally believe that there is a need for solidarity between all residents of the country, to stay home and stay safe, and only to go out unless absolutely necessary.”
Meanwhile the head of the Cyprus Turkish Medical Association, Özlem Gürkut, said the TRNC health system was in danger of becoming “overwhelmed” and that younger patients were now being admitted to hospital with Covid.