COVID19: Cyprus delays decisions for stricter measures

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Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades has decided to delay the announcement of new, possibly stricter measures to combat the coronavirus, after he was briefed on Monday evening during a crisis meeting by his scientific advisors, following the surge of COVID-19 cases in recent days.

The emergency meeting came just days after Cyprus tightened measures last Wednesday with the introduction of an island-wide overnight curfew and more restrictions in Limassol and Paphos, identified as the virus’ epicentres.

The president said an announcement will be made “within 48 hours”, adding that “Cyprus could not be the exception to what is happening in Europe and the rest of the world.”

“We are trying to prevent the worse, we are concerned about the economy, the stress the public is under and the health situation in general,” he said on his way to an event at the state theatre Thoc in Nicosia.

“We are deeply concerned by the surge, especially among young people, and what will happen if this affects elderly people and the strain this will cause on our hsopitals,” he warned, adding that if this situation continues, then the health system and the economy will not be able to cope.

After meeting the advisors for one and a half hours at the presidential palace, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said, “these are difficult times. We are doing all that his humanly possible to face the danger. Our priority remains the protection of the public health.”

Deputy government spokesman Panayiotis Sendonas said the meeting also included Labour and Social Insurance Minister Zeta Emilianidou, as well as representatives of the state hospitals’ system, OKYPY, who briefed the president on the capability of the hospitals to cope with the record influx of coronavirus patients who require care.

On Monday, Cyprus saw a drop in SARS-CoV-2 cases to 111, slightly down from 116 on Sunday and a third of the record 314 on Saturday, that prompted Monday’s emergency meeting.

However, health officials are more concerned with the rise in the number of patients seeking hospital care increased from 69 on Saturday to 77 on Sunday and 85 on Monday.

With 1,732 cases reported so far in November, the month is fast catching up with the total 2,611 coronavirus cases in October, the worst month on record since the pandemic in March.

Earlier in the day, experts had said that another lockdown still remains an option.

In comments to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) Dr Constantinos Tsioutis, a government advisor, said: “All scenarios are on the table”.

He said scientists had prepared suggestions for every possible outcome as they were not only looking at data, but also possible scenarios on how the virus could spread.

“Unfortunately, in recent weeks there has been a serious deterioration of Cyprus’ epidemiological picture with the option of a lockdown being broadly discussed in the media, resulting in the creation of a climate of fear and a blame game,” said Tsioutis.

He noted that the recent restrictive measures imposed on Limassol and Paphos are valid until November 16.

Limassol is the island’s virus hotspot with 420 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Paphos with 294, Ioannou had said last week.

The benchmark as defined by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is 150 per 100,000.

“We believe that the rate of increase of patients in intensive care and hospital COVID-19 bed occupancy rates are the most important criteria, which will determine whether there is a need for stricter measures.”

The expert in infection control said all indicators and occupancy rates are currently on the rise.