COVID19: Cyprus cases drop to 107, rapid tests reveal 50 new infections

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Cyprus health authorities announced 107 new cases of SARS-CoV-2 on Monday, the third day with a steady drop in new infections following the 207 on Friday.

However, this number is expected to rise again after the government embarked on an antigen-based rapid testing programme, focusing on the districts of Limassol and Paphos that have seen the biggest coronavirus clusters in recent weeks and were subjected to a partial lockdown as of last Friday.

The Health Ministry said it conducted 3,679 PCR tests to track COVID-19, and that 73 of the 107 new cases were discovered through contact tracing.

Eight new coronavirus cases were discovered among passengers arriving at Larnaca and Paphos airports while a further six positive cases were identified from targeted testing of people working in Limassol or Paphos who sought exemption from the lockdown restrictions.

This raised the total of all COBVID-19 cases since the pandemic started to 7,285. The health ministry added that the number of patients being treated at the Covid-referral hospital at Famagusta General rose to 55, with 75 in care in all state hospitals.

A free rapid testing programme, focusing on COVID hotspots Paphos and Limassol was launched on Monday to help health authorities identify the extent to which the virus has spread in the community.

Paphos along with Limassol have been declared as centres of COVID-19 as according to the latest epidemiological data, Limassol’s 14-day cumulative notification rate on 8 November had risen to 516.9 per 100,000, as did Paphos at 226.4.

The 14-day cumulative notification rate for Famagusta is also dangerously rising at 178.4. Nicosia’s rate stands at 102.7 and Larnaca’s at 117.7.

The ‘safe’ benchmark according to the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) is 150 per 100,000.

According to health officials, rapid antigen tests are highly reliable with an efficiency rate of 92% to 98% and the results are ready within 15 minutes.

Of the 4,151 rapid tests on the first day of the programme, 50 returned positive and affected persons were told to self-isolate, to be followed by a PCR test to confirm the result.

More than half, or 27 cases were identified in Limassol, 14 in Larnaca, 5 in Famagusta district, 3 in Paphos and one in Polis Chrysochous.

The health ministry has deployed 11 mobile testing units and said that the programme will continue for ten days.

It added that two more mobile testing centres will be set up in Limassol on Tuesday, at the former Pissarides centre near the Ayia Fyla roundabout, and in the Yermasoyia public parking area.

Following a public outcry over the way police handled roadblocks on highways into Limassol and Paphos, causing long queues, Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis on Monday ordered police to only conduct random checks.

Since last Friday’s lockdown on the Paphos and Limassol districts, people wanting to travel have had to sit in kilometres-long traffic while police check every vehicle’s paperwork.