COVID19: Limassol, Paphos go into lockdown

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Cyprus announced on Wednesday it would introduce local lockdowns in virus hotspots and other measures in a bid to curb a spike in coronavirus cases.

After keeping infection numbers low through most of the summer, the island has seen daily infections rise to record three-digit figures.

The health system has started to feel the strain with a dedicated COVID-19 hospital at capacity.

At the end of June, Cyprus had under a thousand COVID-19 cases it now has almost 6,500 during a much harsher second wave that is gripping Europe.

Limassol and Paphos will feel the brunt of the measures as both districts go into lockdown from Thursday.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said the new measures would remain in place until the end of the month.

“The government is once again in a difficult position to announce a new emergency package to stem the spread of the pandemic, especially in areas where the transmission of the virus tends to spiral out of control,” said Ioannou in a televised speech.

He said people will not be able to enter Limassol or Paphos from other towns, neither can residents leave their vicinity to travel elsewhere on the island.

Although already under curfew, this will now extend over a longer period during the evening from 8 pm to 5 am instead of the current 11 pm to 5 am.

Since the pandemic in March until September, only 28 per cent of the cases were from Limassol and Paphos, since October they account for 70 per cent, said Ioannou.

Some 49 of the 68 hospital patients (72 per cent) are from these districts as were seven of the last eight COVID-19 deaths.

Hospitality and catering venues will also close in both areas, while gatherings in public places like parks are banned.

Primary schools will remain open, but higher and secondary educational institutes will operate remotely.

Museums, cinemas and theatres will also shut until November 30 in Limassol and Paphos, attending church is also prohibited.

Shopping malls, department stores hair salons, gyms and beauty parlours will also have to close.

In the rest of Cyprus, a curfew will remain until 30 November from 11 pm to 5 am (2100 GMT to 0300 GMT) while bars, cafes and restaurants will be required to close by 10:30 pm (2030 GMT).

Conferences are also banned, as are visits to care homes while playgrounds and theme parks will have to suspend operations.

The Republic of Cyprus, which registered 165 new virus cases on Wednesday, has officially recorded 6,461 infections and 33 deaths.

Two-thirds of those cases have been reported since the start of October.

The island had largely kept a lid on the pandemic by introducing an early lockdown and curfew in March, which was gradually eased from early May.

Authorities are keen to avoid another draconian lockdown, with the economy already in recession.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades told Cypriots to comply with the new measures as there was no other option.

“Unfortunately, despite the measures taken…it has not been possible to curb the outbreak which now threatens the health system and the economy,” he warned Wednesday in a televised address.

Health authorities blame the spike on Cypriots flouting hygiene rules, including on mask-wearing and social distancing.

Face masks are mandatory indoors and outdoors, except at home while household gatherings are limited to 10 people.

Turkish Cypriots have registered 986 virus cases, including five deaths.