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COVID19: Cyprus turns to rapid testing schemes

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Cyprus is putting its money on a mass testing strategy employing rapid tests, as Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou seeks approval to acquire another 300,000 rapid test kits, following the first 200,000 batch already received.

Ioannou did not get the opportunity to present his proposal to the cabinet as it was called off Thursday after Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis was found positive to the virus.

According to sources, health authorities, on the recommendation of the advisory team on handling the coronavirus outbreak, want to carry out a mass testing program at care homes, hospitals, schools and army camps.

The plan is to have people at care homes, health workers and teachers tested once a week.

As of Thursday, the Health Ministry has increased rapid testing points for the general population to 16 across Cyprus, as it has become clear that the virus is widespread in the community.

Nicosia joined the scheme on Wednesday, with results indicating that there is a reason for concern as 1 in 50 rapid tests carried out in the capital delivered a positive result.

Experts were worried about the spread of the virus in the capital after it became visible in recent days from the results of the molecular lab tests, that new chains of transmission had developed in Lyceums, nursing homes and other institutions.

The Presidential Palace and the government itself were also affected as Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis tested positive, as did two of his associates and another three members of the presidency’s staff.

Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos and Interior Minister Nicos Nouris are in self-isolation after coming in close contact with Kadis.

Previously considered a virus hotspot, the district of Paphos seems to be improving its epidemiological data as rapid tests found that just one in 250 people tested positive.

According to reports, scientists have proposed that authorities perform some 10,000 tests daily to form a better picture of the spread of the virus in the population.

Cyprus has recorded 7,711 COVID cases and 41 deaths, with Limassol and Paphos, deemed as virus hotspots on Lockdown since last Friday.

Some 144 positive cases were detected through the rapid testing scheme, after close to 10,000 tests were carried out since Monday.

Out the 144, only 14 cases have been verified so far with a PCR test.