COVID19: Cyprus supermarket chain and bakery facility hit by virus

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Alphamega supermarket chain and the island’s biggest bakery Zorbas confirmed that a number of their employees tested positive for COVID-19 but assured they are taking all required measures for public safety.

Alpamega confirmed that employees at its Engomi supermarket have tested positive, while Zorbas Bakeries confirmed that 12 workers at a production unit were also found to be positive for COVID-19.

The majority of cases were detected as part of wider testing being carried out by the Health Ministry among public and private frontline employees to locate asymptomatic COVID-19 cases.

Alphamega did not say how many employees were infected, but media speculation said there were four cases at the busy Nicosia supermarket.

“Immediately after confirmed cases were found and under the guidance of the Health Ministry, Alphamega hypermarkets activated a plan of action taking all the advised safety and hygiene measures,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

It said that all personnel at the Engomi supermarket have are now self-isolating at home while new staff were brought in.

The company said there is no reason for alarm as all its supermarkets are disinfected and cleaned on a daily basis by special crews.

Zorbas Bakeries confirming the 12 cases at a facility in the village of Aradippou, Larnaca, one of the two identified hotspots of the virus, along with Paphos, said it facility was closed for a deep clean.

Aradippou recently underwent targeted testing to gauge the spread of the virus but the Zorbas facility wasn’t flagged as a problem.

Health authorities said on Tuesday that there had been a ministerial decree to temporarily shut down the facility pending its disinfection.

According to a Health Ministry statement, Zorbas management immediately suspended the operation of the unit and placed some 100 employees in quarantine at a hotel.

At the same time, they started testing their close contacts and the rest of the staff working in this area, who are to self-isolate.

The company said all staff were tested and its facilities and shops have now been disinfected and are operating normally under strict conditions.

“The specific colleagues, as well as all the people who came into contact with them, were asked to self-isolate and are under medical supervision,” said Zorbas Bakeries in an announcement.

The company said only employees that test negative will be allowed to return to work.

Wear a mask

Cyprus health services have launched a scheme to check 20,000 frontline workers in a bid to contain the coronavirus.

As of Monday night, some 621 frontline workers have been tested, with 10 people being tested positive.

Meanwhile, epidemiologist Dr Michalis Voniatis called on businesses to abide by strict hygiene instructions issued by the health authorities and disinfect shops and facilities on a daily basis.

“The virus can live in a closed environment for more than 24 hours, but when the area is disinfected, there is no concern as the virus is destroyed. When the area is well ventilated, shelves and products are disinfected, there is no problem,” Voniatis told the Cyprus News Agency.

The epidemiologist also called on people to wear masks while visiting supermarkets and bakeries as shoppers are at risk.

“If we all wear a mask, the risk of transmitting the virus to each other is reduced to almost zero. If someone coughs and is wearing a mask, they will not emit droplets containing the virus which can remain in the atmosphere for a few hours,” Voniatis said.