COVID19: Government errs against Limassol lockdown

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Cyprus Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou confirmed on Monday the authorities are considering applying local lockdowns in areas where COVID-19 clusters are formed, but the lid will not come down on Limassol yet where cases are rising.

He told ANT1 TV, health authorities were particularly alarmed over the string of cases in Limassol, as the majority were either ‘orphan’, meaning that the source of infection could not be traced, or was linked to orphan cases.

“We are particularly concerned over the turn of events in the community and especially in Limassol. This is evidence that the virus has not left the community,” said Ioannou.

He argued that at the moment a local lockdown is not called for in Limassol but the public must remain vigilant and continue adhering to hygiene and social distancing regulations.

“Recently, a tendency towards complacency has been recorded, with a large proportion of the public not observing hygiene or social distancing measures, especially when it comes to mass gatherings,” said Ioannou.

Scientists advising the government on handling the coronavirus outbreak have expressed their unease over the spike in Limassol cases but do not feel it is out of control to impose a lockdown.

Following increased cases in the town recently, with five being traced to a single restaurant (Wagamama) at Limassol Marina, the Health Ministry urged the public to adhere to social distancing and hygiene rules to prevent another wave of infections.

In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, an expert in infectious diseases, Constantinos Tsioutis said that health authorities are alarmed over the incidents, but the situation does not warrant a lockdown.

Tsioutis said that scientists would recommend a local lockdown if there was a sudden increase in cases.

“Such as if for every batch of 1000 samples, five cases were detected, or if 20 to 30 infections were recorded in a single day, then there would have to be stricter interventions”.

Tsioutis added that there are other measures that should be implemented first.

He said a local lockdown would mean that in a certain geographical area, village, city or district, no one would be allowed to enter or leave for a fixed period of time.

Such lockdowns are considered a measure of “last resort”.

“If implemented it will include additional measures, which may see the reintroduction of restrictions on free movement, submitting requests to leave the house via SMS.”

Tsioutis said Limassol could be considered a new COVID-19 cluster “therefore residents need to be vigilant”.

He urged the public to adhere to personal protection measures, social distancing, taking extra care at indoor restaurants and while visiting public services.

The Health Ministry told the Financial Mirror last week that the majority of local infections reported in Cyprus during the last three weeks were in Limassol.

Out of 19 cases reported in the week between 20 and 26 July, more than a dozen were linked to Limassol.