A Cyprus watchdog championing rights of the elderly has accused the government of ageism after two people died in a Limassol care home while dozens more were infected with COVID-19.
Another four elderly people residing in the care home have been admitted to COVID-referral hospital Famagusta General for treatment.
The Third Age Observatory, set up to promote the rights of the elderly, intervened on Tuesday calling for more checks on such facilities after the number of COVID-19 cases among staff and residents at the Sokration Melathron home reached 37.
In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, chairman of the Observatory, Demos Antoniou said that currently such care homes are visited just once or twice a month by social services, which, especially during the pandemic, does not suffice.
“The state must assume its responsibilities, increase the human resources…increase checks during this period when we have a large number of cases and offer free tests to nursing homes as these do not have enough resources to carry them out”.
Antoniou questioned how it was possible that authorities had checked the institution on 3 October when they got wind of an infection but did not take any further action until the end of the month when an elderly woman had died.
“It has become evident that some measures were not implemented correctly, and these people were infected. Checks and measures need to be implemented immediately.”
Antoniou expressed grave concern noting that in other countries there were cases where 50-60 elderly people from a single home had died within a week.
“Don’t forget that we are talking about a vulnerable group of people”.
He blamed it on discrimination towards the elderly.
“We are witnessing incidents of ‘ageism’ from people making the argument to ‘let the old die for the economy’s sake’. This is the point we have reached as a society.”
Antoniou said that, unfortunately, some argue that if you are over 65, you have to stay home and wait to die.
“We are strongly opposed to this mentality. Some younger people treat the elderly with very disparaging behaviour. They generally consider the elderly as third-class citizens”.
Defending the way it handled the care home incident, the Health Ministry said Tuesday it acted immediately when it was informed on the 23 October that 13 cases were found after rapid testing was carried out.
“The home was instructed to remove the virus-positive individuals and on October 24 a list was drawn up and submitted by the nursing home with the close contacts of the cases. Individuals reported as close contacts were scheduled for a lab test on November 1.”
It further said that following consultation with the owner of the nursing home, it was decided that tests be performed on all residents and staff at the expense of the establishment.
“The Tracing Team did not take any further action, as no other positive incidents were reported by the nursing home, an indication that the instructions were implemented and there was no further spread”.
Authorities were informed on November 1 that positive incidents had occurred and requested their transfer to Famagusta General Hospital.
The Ministry said that it has referred the case to the police as the institution may have put public health at risk.