President Nicos Anastasiades on Wednesday will announce stricter measures to combat the coronavirus surge with local lockdowns for Limassol and Paphos hotspots the most likely option.
It is understood authorities are leaning towards restricting movement in Limassol and Paphos to stop the virus spreading to other areas, but schools will stay open.
Although an islandwide lockdown hasn’t been ruled out, it is the option of last resort.
Anastasiades was expected to announce new measures on Monday evening following a meeting with government advisors prompted by a worrying surge of cases over recent weeks, peaking at a record 314 on Saturday.
He, however, decided to delay any decision for 48 hours until the cabinet meets.
The new rules will come just a week after Cyprus tightened measures last Wednesday with the introduction of an islandwide overnight curfew and more restrictions in Limassol and Paphos.
Asked by reporters whether measures would include some sort of lockdown, island-wide or local, the President said: “Cyprus could not be the exception to what is happening in Europe and the rest of the world.”
Measures under discussion include:
- tightening restrictions on free movement in Limassol and Paphos, including some sort of lockdown
- An island-wide lockdown
- Postpone action, pending further evaluation of measures already in place
Reportedly, experts advised the government against the implementation of an island-wide lockdown, as they would like to keep that measure for a later stage when seasonal infections begin to coexist with the coronavirus, which will surely further burden the health system.
But government scientists during Monday’s meeting stressed that tightening measures in Limassol and Paphos is imperative, as the spread of coronavirus is getting out of control and local lockdowns will help regain control and reduce transmission.
An important indicator for scientists advising the government is the situation in hospitals.
Officials who participated in the meeting stressed that Famagusta General, acting solely as the country’s COVID-19 referral hospital has already reached full capacity.
Therefore, experts deemed it necessary to prepare the Limassol General to receive patients with coronavirus.
The Health Ministry is expected to go over data one more time on Tuesday and make further recommendations.
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 the 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.
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.