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COVID19: Cyprus could extend restrictions until May

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Cyprus is contemplating extending restrictive measures on free movement, adopted to stem the spread of coronavirus, until the end of April, according to state broadcaster CyBC on Monday.

Website Philenews also cited sources saying that the government is also looking into the possibility of postponing Easter celebrations until the end of May.

Speculation that the government may extend measures came after a COVID-19 committee meeting on Monday, where, however, no decision was made public.

According to a written statement by acting government spokesperson Panayiotis Sentonas, final decisions are to be taken on Wednesday when the special ministerial committee is to convene again.

CyBC reported that the meeting had heard from scientists that it was too early to reach safe conclusions regarding contagion and that another 15 days of strict social distancing were needed.

Authorities are also cautious pending the results of targeted and random testing in two hotspots of the outbreak, Paphos and Aradippou, a village in Larnaca.

Experts believe that it would be too risky to lift social distancing measures.

Maria Koliou, University of Cyprus professor on infectious diseases and chair of the Cyprus Medical Association committee on coronavirus told the Cyprus News Agency that restrictive measures must stay in force until the end of April.

She said that although the past few days have seen a drop in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, another week was needed for a clearer picture to emerge as to the effectiveness of the measures introduced by the government.

In comments to CyBC radio, Dr Peter Karayiannis, virologist and microbiology professor at the University of Nicosia, said Cyprus may need another 2-3 weeks to exit the current phase of the virus’ cycle.

Expressing hope that confirmed cases will show some stability by the end of the week, he noted that Cyprus could see a daily reduction in new cases.

On the COVID-19 clusters in Paphos and Aradippou, he said that news coming in is encouraging.

“However, measures should not be reduced, as by Easter the number of cases may well reach 600,” said Karayiannis.

Earlier on Monday, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said that it was way too early to draw conclusions from the drop in COVID-19 cases observed in the past couple of days, despite a downward trend in confirmed cases.

“It is better than it was in previous days, but I think it’s very premature to interpret drop in cases as an indication of the virus ebbing,” Ioannou told Politis Radio.

Following the record on 1 April when 58 new cases were reported, there has been a gradual drop to 20 on Sunday bring the total since the outbreak to 446.

Ioannou said that the trend needs to continue for a few more days more before we draw conclusions that measures are paying off.