COVID19: Experts fear recent spike in Cyprus cases

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Scientists advising the Cyprus government on handling the coronavirus outbreak expressed concern after irregular Syrian migrants and arrivals from Serbia tested positive for COVID-19.

On Sunday, five COVID-19 coronavirus cases concerning migrants who crossed over from the Turkish-held north after arriving from Syria through Turkey tested positive before being admitted to a reception centre.

University of Nicosia professor of molecular virology Peter Karayiannis said it was worrying because it remains unclear whether these people had come into contact with others.

“It was fortunate that they were spotted and tested before being placed into the reception centre,” Karayiannis told the Cyprus News Agency.

Dr Leontios Kostrikis, also a member of the epidemiology team, appeared concerned with the situation regarding imported cases in general, especially from Serbia.

The five cases involving migrants from Syria were among seven cases announced on Sunday. The other two were a footballer from Serbia and a woman in Paphos.

Two other footballers from Serbia, at topflight Cypriot clubs, have also tested positive in recent weeks.

Kostrikis said experts will propose placing Serbia in category C as is it is now considered to be a high-risk country.

“Serbia must be placed in category C so that anyone coming to Cyprus from this country be placed in self-isolation for 14 days.”

Epidemiologists have yet to discuss Sunday’s seven cases, breaking the chain of 2-3 cases reported daily, but they are concerned over “the ease with which irregular migrants enter from the occupied areas”.

Kostrikis said, “it raises the question on the real situation in the north relating to coronavirus incidents…are their contacts being traced?”

He said processing migrants after their arrival in the Republic also causes a risk as they have come into contact with police officers and other officials.