COVID19: Mask-wearing expanded as Cyprus teeters on the edge

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Cyprus will extend the use of mask-wearing to all indoor areas after Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou conceded the pandemic was on the verge of getting out of control.

The use of masks will be mandatory in all indoor environments where there are two or more people present, the minister said.

“It has been decided masks must be worn in all enclosed spaces, not only where the public is served. That is, where there are two people indoors.”

He said turning the tide against the spike in COVID-19 cases – which hit a daily record of 83 on Tuesday – depended on public vigilance to observe social distancing and hygiene protocols.

“In recent days there has been an increase in cases…a rapid deterioration of the epidemiological picture and the risk of derailment is now visible,” Ioannou told reporters after meeting his COVID team.

“We are at a critical juncture and it is only a matter of time before our hospitals are full and we are counting victims,” he added.

Ioannou held an emergency meeting with his scientific team on Wednesday to discuss the worrying levels of COVID transmission.

The experts erred against a new lockdown with the minister saying the measures in place were “sufficient” if people followed the protocols.

“There is a perception of the epidemiological team not to take additional measures but to comply with existing ones. It must become part of our daily life.”

Cyprus is currently witnessing its worst rate in COVID cases since the outbreak in March with Limassol and Nicosia becoming the new virus hotspots.

Ioannou said the situation has worsened because many are not following the rules while some are trying to skirt around them like football teams training in different districts.

He said people were not self-isolating or giving up their close contacts while employers also had a part to play to keep the work environment safe.

The minister acknowledged there was COVID awareness fatigue but fighting the virus was a long-term strategy.

“We are dealing with a virus, which is here, it is among us and it is deadly.

As there is no effective vaccine planned to be released in the coming months, the only effective treatment is to follow the measures and protocols. The responsibility is, in short, in our hands.”

The virus transmission rate is now well over one which means cases are increasing exponentially.