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COVID19: Healthcare workers sound the alarm

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Healthcare professionals are sounding the alarm claiming the number of Cyprus coronavirus cases is much higher than the total announced by the Epidemiological Monitoring Unit.

Doctors and nurses say the number of “orphan” cases where it is unknown how the patient contracted the virus, combined with people being treated in the hospital could reveal that a larger portion of the population has been infected with the coronavirus.

Just this week 9 orphan cases were announced by authorities.

Health professionals are demanding that the state takes action and change testing protocols in a bid to identify the real scale of transmission within society.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, President of the Cyprus Medical Association (CyMA), Petros Agathangelou, believes as many as 1800 people may have been infected with the virus, but developed light to no symptoms at all.

“These people were going about their business, prior to the complete lockdown, unaware, spreading the virus to others.”

He argued that the definition of what is a suspected case should be expanded immediately and as many people tested as possible.

Agathangelou said that the state needs to take an aggressive stance against the disease, taking the fight to the virus.

“That would mean testing on a massive scale by checking citizens at random,” said the doctor who argued that if the disease reaches its peak within the coming two months the health system will be overwhelmed.

Agathangelou noted that massive and random testing is necessary in order to get a better picture of what the health services are up against, stressing that the virus is endemic in Cyprus.

In Bergamo, Italy, where thousands were infected and hundreds lost their lives when random testing was finally introduced, authorities discovered that 3% of cases identified were asymptomatic.

The head of CyMA welcomed the lockdown noting that at the moment it is imperative to save people’s lives, the health care system and, in the long run, the economy.

“What are we going to do with towers if the healthcare system collapses?”

Taking the opportunity, Agathangelou wanted to stress that the coronavirus crisis should also be a lesson for the authorities who need to invest more in public health.

“Last year, in August, I had publicly called for the state to upgrade public hospitals, stressing that if a pandemic should hit us with our public hospitals unprepared, then the whole health system would blow up.”

Medical shortages

Doctors and nurses are also asking for protocols to be changed and for all patients admitted to hospitals to be checked for coronavirus.

Talking to the Financial Mirror, press officer for the Cyprus Nurses Union (PASYNO) said that protocols need to be changed to protect health professionals.

“It is clear that the number of cases within the society is not known…That is why we need to have patients and health workers checked on a regular basis,” said Theodoros Petelis.

“Like the World Health Organisation said… Test… test… test… Already tens of nurses and doctors have been removed from the battlefield due to the spread of the virus. We can’t afford to lose any more,” he added.

Petelis said that health workers in all wards should be wearing protective gear as in many cases patients coming in with other illnesses also have coronavirus, thus spreading it amongst other patients and medics.

He said there is a shortage of supplies and protective gear.

“We have been warning over these shortages for a long time now. We were always told that the supplies are in the warehouses. However, we need them now. We were not crazy to cry for help all these months.”

In response to health professionals’ claims of shortages, the spokesperson for the State Health Services Organisation (OKYPY) Charalambos Charilaou said there is an effort being made to acquire larger quantities of medical supplies.
He said there are moves to increase stocks of medical supplies, adding that “supplies are expected from China and elsewhere”.

He explained that existing stocks are to be used sparingly.

“I do not want to gloss over the situation but any existing shortages will be covered,” said Charilaou.