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COVID19: Oops…Cyprus apologises for airport tests howler

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Cyprus Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou made a red-faced public apology after authorities had to backtrack declaring the 30 positive COVID-19 cases detected at the airport on Monday were tainted.

Health authorities found themselves in a tight spot on Wednesday when they had to explain how some 26 out of 30 COVID-19 cases reported on Monday were found not to be positive after all.

The tests said the Health Ministry, proved to have been contaminated and the people who supposedly tested positive at the airport were retested.

After 27 of the tests were re-taken, only one case was found to be actually positive.

The test results for another three people are expected later in the day.

In Monday’s announcement, the ministry said the 30 cases concerned 17 people who arrived from Mykonos, 10 from the Netherlands, 2 from the UK, and 1 from Croatia.

The false positives resulted in Cyprus reporting the second-highest number of daily coronavirus cases recorded (39) since the outbreak.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou tweeted an apology to people affected by the corrupted results, saying the matter is under investigation.

The Minister repeated an earlier statement by the ministry which said, “the tests were tainted during the sampling procedure carried out by the private laboratory that was commissioned by the state”.

“Due to the very large number of cases detected on only three flights that arrived at Paphos airport on the same day, and due to the intense concern that was caused, and on the recommendation of the epidemiological surveillance unit, all individuals underwent a repeated laboratory test,” the ministry said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the tracing process regarding close contacts of the cases falsely reported had got underway, causing further distress for family members and close friends of the cases reported.

Those 30 who were told they were COVID positive also had to self-isolate.

People reported to be close contacts of the cases, were instructed to self-isolate, and have been asked to remain in self-isolation pending a second negative test.

The Health Ministry referred any questions about the huge mishap to the Commissioner of Clinical Labs, Carolina Stylianou who was not available when contacted by the Financial Mirror.

Republic of Cyprus health authorities on Tuesday evening confirmed another 14 new COVID-19 cases bringing its total number of infections to 1,474 and 20 deaths.

But this figure should now be revised to 1,444 because of the 30 tainted cases.