Further reopening measures announced
The government announced at a press conference this morning the next steps of its reopening plan with a further rollback of restrictions and a rescue package for the tourism industry.
Speaking at the conference were Prime Minister Bárður á Steig Nielsen, trade minister Helgi Abrahamsen, culture minister Jenis av Rana and finance minister Jørgen Niclasen.
The Prime Minister started the press conference by saying that although further restrictions will now be lifted, we need to adhere to the public health guidelines on social distancing and hygiene for a while longer.
From 15 June, it will be possible to travel to Iceland and internally within the Danish Kingdom without the need to self-quarantine upon return to the Faroe Islands.
The current 14-day self-quarantine requirements will be replaced by a new set of precautionary measures which will be announced in the coming days.
Nightlife and festivals
Health professionals still believe that nightlife activities increase the risk of COVID-19 infection, citing South Korea as an example, where a single infected person spread the virus to numerous others in a bar. This forced the South Korean authorities to re-impose some of its corona restrictions.
As it is nearly impossible to trace the contacts of an infected person in an environment where hundreds of people roam freely and alcohol is involved, the government is looking at ways to authorise the police to enforce compliance with the 10pm closing times for bars and restaurants.
For the same reasons, no music festivals should be held until 1 September at the earliest until further notice, and the Ólavsøka national holiday celebrations will not be the same as normal.
Town and village fairs can go ahead under carefully controlled conditions in consultation with the corona consultancy service.
Rescue package for the tourism industry
Trade minister Helgi Abrahamsen announced rescue package number three, primarily aimed at supporting the struggling tourism industry.
The first part consists of a subsidy scheme for overhead expenses. The maximum payout for a single company or consortium is DKK 10 million. A total of DKK 30-40 million will be available from this part of the rescue package.
The second part consists of DKK 30 million from the Business Development Fund for companies in the tourism industry for 2020 and 2021.
Culture and sports
Culture minister Jenis av Rana said that artists and sportspeople who were not covered by the first two rescue packages can apply for compensation for documented financial losses caused by the corona lockdown.
Terms and conditions for rescue packages
Finance minister Jørgen Niclasen said that the government cannot singlehandedly carry the financial burden of the corona crisis. A close cooperation between the national authorities, banks, businesses and individuals is required.
The finance ministry is working on a supplementary appropriation for the ministries of health and social affairs. A bill will be submitted to Parliament next week.
All three rescue packages have an expiration date of 30 June. Possible extensions will be decided on nearer the expiration date.
A key condition of the third rescue package is that any profits will be repaid to the Treasury.
Some of the lost revenue for music festivals and other cultural events including sports will be reimbursed.
Questions from the floor
Question: is anything being done to prevent mass dismissals for public limited companies such as we have seen for Atlantic Airways and Vágar Airport?
Prime Minister: public limited companies operate in accordance with the same rules as private limited companies, which means that they are responsible for their own finances. But I strongly believe that the tourism industry will get back on its feet sooner than expected and that some of these recent layoffs will be reversed.
Finance minister: public limited companies are required to make the necessary adjustments, which is what they have done. Atlantic Airways and Vágar Airport have strong liquidity, so there is no need for government aid at this point. But should this become necessary in the future, we will step in.
Question: will music festivals be fully compensated for lost revenues?
Culture minister: we know that the festival managements are considering alternative plans and later dates. We will consider possible compensations later.
Finance minister: business enterprises will receive compensations of up to 75 percent of their expenses. A similar figure will apply to music festivals.
>> SEE ALSO Most corona restrictions are now lifted
Question: the tourism industry has indicated that the rescue packages should be valid until March next year, but you say they will expire on 30 June. What are your views on this?
Trade minister: the packages are valid until 30 June initially, but we will consider extensions.
Question: will the deadline for the first rescue package (the job retention scheme) be extended beyond 30 June?
Prime minister: if we extend the job retention scheme, it will be adjusted so that companies will not receive support when they dismiss staff.
Question: the Prime Minister has repeatedly said that he does not wish to impose bans. Is this still the case?
Prime Minister: I wish there would not be a need to impose bans, but with our extended reopening measures on 15 June, we have no choice but to introduce some firm restrictions. Our public health advisors have been very clear about the increased risk of infection in relation to nightlife activities and music festivals. The maximum limit of 100 people gathering in groups will still apply because it makes it easier to trace contacts in case an infected person is in a group.
Question: 15 June seems like an arbitrary date. Is there a reason for picking this exact date?
Prime Minister: we initially wanted to open our borders on 1 June, but we felt we needed some time to prepare this step, so we settled on 15 June.
Translated by prosa.fo