Nicosia General Hospital under lockdown

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Nicosia General Hospital on Tuesday suspended services after the head of its heart surgery became the island’s first case of novel coronavirus while authorities are checking some 150 samples from his work environment.

The 64-year-old head of heart surgery Dr. Chrysostomos Kokkinos, was identified among the first two Cyprus coronavirus cases on Monday.

The Health Ministry said that effective Tuesday, all admissions, outpatient clinics, surgeries and patient visitations at the island’s largest hospital were suspended for 48 hours when the situation would be reviewed.

The operation of the cardiology ward is also suspended, and patients will be gradually discharged or sent to the private sector, depending on their general health condition, the ministry said.

It said a deep clean of the hospital is also underway.

Visitation to the hospital have been cancelled for the next 48 hours, and patients are asked to go to A&E only in emergency situations.

The doctor, a 64-year-old heart surgeon, contracted the virus on a visit to Britain and treated a patient the same night of his arrival on March 3. He was not tested until March 8.

On Monday Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou told a press conference the two cases were both Cypriot men – one aged 25 who had recently returned from a trip to Milan, Italy and a 64-year-old “health professional” working at a state hospital in Nicosia who returned from a trip to the UK.

The two were among 42 suspect cases tested on Monday.

The 25-year-old, from Limassol, was tested at Larnaca airport on returning from Milan on February 26 and was in self-isolation when he tested positive.

However, the doctor had not self-isolated after returning from a trip to the UK on 3 March.

“What’s regrettable is that he didn’t report his symptoms until five days later…this creates a problem in trying to trace who he came into contact with,” said Ioannou.

Kokkinos hit back at those claims, saying that he did not have any symptoms until Sunday night. He said that he initially wanted to be tested but was dissuaded by fellow doctors.

He told Phileleftheros, said when he returned from the UK on March 3, he did not have any symptoms, and that on the same night he had to attend to an emergency at the hospital.

He added that over the following days he dealt with many cardio cases, as he felt well.

Ioannou said it was ‘regrettable’ the doctor only reported to authorities on Sunday, March 8, after showing symptoms.

Kokkinos said on Sunday he had muscle pains, which he thought were caused by the stress of the week, but because he had travelled to England, he decided to speak with the virologists at Nicosia general.

He claimed that he was discouraged by his colleagues from being tested as the UK was not a high-risk country, and in the end, he received the coronavirus test of his own volition.

Ioannou refuted the doctor’s claims on Tuesday in comments to Politis radio, saying that he had information the medic was not feeling well from the first day of returning to his duties after his UK trip.

He told Politis that 152 samples have been sent for testing from patients and staff at the Nicosia hospital who came into contact with the 64-year-old surgeon.

Those results are expected later on Tuesday. So far, 37 have tested negative.