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COVID19: Experts can’t rule out lockdown option

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Hours before President Nicos Anastasiades holds a crisis meeting with government advisors on the pandemic, experts say another lockdown remains an option.

The emergency meeting comes 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.

President Anastasiades will be briefed on the latest data from Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou and scientists giving suggestions on tackling the cases surge.

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.

Asked about the possibility of a second lockdown, Tsioutis said he was not in a position to say whether such a scenario could indeed play out.

“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 argued that focus should remain on how the public and authorities could work together so as to protect public health.

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

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

“I think that in light of the situation currently prevailing in Cyprus, which is getting worse, following the identification of a number of clusters last week and increase in patients needing care, we will discuss whether measures already in place will need to be tightened or more should be added.”

“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.

“This week is very crucial because it will determine the rate of patients needing to be hospitalised.”

“We all need to acknowledge and assume our responsibilities, which can be achieved with a number of basic protective measures we should be applying in our daily lives.”

To avoid total lockdown, Cyprus imposed a night-time curfew from last Thursday until November 30 in a bid to blunt a sharp spike in coronavirus cases and protect the health service.

A night-time curfew earlier imposed on Limassol and Paphos now applies to the entire country from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Bars, cafes, and restaurants will also have to close daily at 10.30 p.m. nationwide.

On a national scale, household gatherings are limited to 10, while hospitality venues can only accommodate restricted numbers.

In Limassol and Paphos, all after-school leisure activities are banned as are organised grassroots championships for under 18s.

Professional sporting events can go ahead without spectators.

Gyms plus all indoor and outdoor children’s play areas must also close in these districts.

These stricter measures apply from 5 November until 16 November.

Health authorities have reported a roller coaster of daily cases over the past few weeks, peaking at 314 on Saturday, reporting a total of 1,621 in November so far.

Cases in October, the worst month until now on record since the pandemic in March, saw 2,611 new cases.