COVID19: Cyprus “ignoring protocols” with record 83 new cases

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Cyprus health authorities announced a record 83 new cases of SARS-CoV-2 on Tuesday, passing the last highest of 58 cases on April 1, and warned of a high risk that the current situation will be derailed.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou will be chairing the scientific advisory committee meeting on Wednesday morning where the rapid rise of cases and possible actions will be discussed.

The health ministry said that of Tuesday’s 3,645 tests, 83 were positive. This raises the national total for coronavirus infections to 2,130.

Most of the cases were local transmissions, with only three related to new arrivals at airports where 1,137 tests were conducted. Two had arrived from London on Monday and one from Athens.

Another passenger arriving from Athens on September 26 had symptoms on October 10 and a traveller arriving from Russia on September 30 was in quarantine and needed a negative test to be released. The test came back positive.

The local infections were mainly university students, nursing school interns, regulars at cafés in Limassol and patients at a dental clinic in Larnaca.

On Monday, a week after stricter measures were imposed in Larnaca district where Covid-19 infections had spiralled in September, the health ministry announced it was extending the same measures to the capital Nicosia and Limassol, where clusters of coronavirus cases had appeared.

The measures are effective until October 23.

Justifying the decision, the health ministry had said it imposed harsher regulations “due to a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases, mainly in workplaces and during family gathering or events.”

In Tuesday’s medical report, the health ministry said, “the transmission chains detected in the last few days, as well as the number of cases added to the chains, detected in the previous period, prove that the health protocols are not sufficiently implemented.

“As a result, the coronavirus is dangerously spread in workplaces, educational institutions, catering establishments and mainly places frequented by young people.”

“There is also an increase in the number of people being screened for symptoms. This raises the alarm as the increase of the symptomatic carriers of the coronavirus shows that the possibility of an increase of the people who will need hospitalisation in the next period, is also very high.”

The health ministry concluded that “last week we had three deaths in four days, which is equally disturbing.”

Of the 22 cases arising from contact tracing, one is linked to a nursing student at the Cyprus University of Technology (TEPAK) in Limassol who is also practising at Nicosia General and was in self-isolation.

One is a contact of a teacher at a school for children with special needs in Paphos, two came into contact with a Portuguese airline cabin crew member announced on October 7, one is linked to a cluster at a hair salon in Limassol, and two were relatives of travellers from Italy who had tested positive on October 7.

However, what is worrying is that six of the new cases were tied to the ‘Gonia’ bar-café in Limassol, which receives hookah (narghile) supplies from ‘Mr Nargilax’ that has produced another five positive infections to date.

A further seven are tied to another cluster traced at the Happy Teeth dental clinic in Larnaca, of whom five are children aged 4 to 7 years old, and two adult relatives.

Another positive case was traced to a contact of a nursing school student announced on Monday, also linked to a café in Limassol, while a female student from TEPAK tested positive, tied to an earlier case of a TEPAK nursing school student.

Limassol has many other chains of transmission spreading the virus.

Five more positive cases arose from pre-admission tests at hospitals and seven showed symptoms and contacted their GP. One of them is the trainer of the Proodevtiki Paphos handball team.

Finally, as part of the programme of 3,000 targeted tests in the Larnaca and Famagusta districts, 668 tests were conducted with only one positive case, a housewife from a rural community.

At present, two patients are being treated at Famagusta General, two remain intubated at Nicosia General’s intensive care ward and three more at other hospitals.