COVID19: Cyprus to test 20,000 frontline workers

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Cyprus has gone on the offensive in its fight to beat the spread of the coronavirus as it launches a campaign to conduct 20,000 COVID-19 tests for frontline workers from Saturday.

Alarmed over the high rate of asymptomatic cases (20%), Cyprus health services are launching a mass testing campaign in an effort to identify possibly asymptomatic carriers of the disease.

The Health Ministry is aiming to test 20,000 employees in the public and private sector who, because of the nature of their job, are exposed to a large number of people on a daily basis.

Tests are expected to begin on Saturday at private labs to be announced and will be carried out over the next 20 days.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said, “our goal is to identify undiagnosed patients so that we can then track their contacts, thus gaining better control over the spread of coronavirus in the community.”

“For every incident that is confirmed, the tracking process will start again. At the same time, we will continue conducting 500-1,000 test that takes place every day for tracking purposes”.

Regarding the procedure, citizens who belong to specific categories of workers and wish to be tested for the coronavirus, the Minister of Health explained that “employees will be able to go to private laboratories and ask to be tested”.

All the employee will have to do is present proof that they fall under one of the categories also to be announced on Friday.

The decision to carry out a large number of tests was made to identify the real number of asymptomatic carriers that cause concern since these individuals can spread the virus without knowing it.

Secondly, the World Health Organization recommends that as many tests as possible are carried out to fight the spread of the disease.

Ioannou said the Health Ministry is to carry out an additional 800 random tests in the community in an effort to obtain a statistical outcome which will be trustworthy regarding the spread and the effect of the virus on the population.

“If we are successful in identifying a large number of cases through sampling, then it will be easier to control the situation,” said Ioannou.

ECDC praises Cyprus

Measures taken by Cyprus against the COVID-19 pandemic are in the right direction, Head of European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Andrea Ammon said.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou had a videoconference Friday with Dr Ammon whom he briefed on the measures taken.

A statement by the Ministry said the ECDC chief expressed her satisfaction for the actions taken by Nicosia.

On the decision for an epidemiological survey with a sample of 800 people and the 20,000 tests for people who work in the private and public sectors and the National Guard, Ammon said this initiative was “extremely important” adding that the results could be used by the ECDC as well.

She said it is premature to discuss the lifting of measures as the relaxation should come gradually.

Ammon said people should remain patient as the authorities need to assess the efficiency of the restrictions.