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COVID19: Scientists mull tighter curbs without lockdown for Christmas

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Scientists advising the government are preparing more suggestions for handling the latest surge of coronavirus cases, as triple-digit daily COVID-19 cases have continued unabated for a month.

Hospitals are at capacity as the number of SARS-CoV-2 patients being treated peaked at 110 on Monday, some 30 more than previous days.

It is not yet clear what the committee of scientists advising the government on coronavirus will suggest, but given the virus is now widespread, a local lockdown imposed on Limassol and Paphos could be relaxed but tightened elsewhere.

According to reports, scientists will be suggesting that authorities keep measures tight until Christmas, allowing for some relaxations during the holiday season for people to celebrate with their loved ones.

The team will be holding a teleconference on Tuesday night (7 pm) to discuss their options.

The committee will brief Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou before presenting their suggestions to President Anastasiades on Wednesday.

Any decisions are expected to be announced before the end of the week when existing measures come to an end on 30 November.

In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, Dr Peter Karayiannis, Professor of Virology at the University of Nicosia Medical School, and government advisor said that existing measures in Limassol and Paphos should be relaxed, but the overall picture is not good.

Karayiannis said: “The epidemiological picture in its entirety will definitely be discussed with the President. The intention is for any measures to be relaxed for the Christmas period so that the market can move as well”.

“At the moment, the epidemiological picture does not allow for relaxing measures entirely.”

He said despite cases stabilizing, there are fears that relaxations could see the situation getting out of control but believes the Paphos lockdown could be lifted.

“At least the Paphos measures are not justifiable. The Limassol lockdown can be relaxed a bit. But the situation in other districts is s cause for concern”.

Meanwhile, a rapid testing scheme launched by the government last week has shown that the situation in Paphos has improved significantly, but Limassol still has not pushed cases downwards while other districts delivered disturbing results.

Cyprus Health authorities have carried out some 37,115 rapid tests, resulting in 551 new COVID-19 cases.

More alarming is the 2.5% of tests carried out in Famagusta returned positive, much higher than the 1.8% from tests carried out in Limassol.

More specifically:

Famagusta: 1793 tests, 45 positive (2.5%)

Limassol:  9625 test, 174 positive (1.8%)

Larnaca: 5530 tests, 97 positive (1.75%)

Nicosia: 12945 tests, 205 positive (1.58%)

Paphos: 5429 tests, 30 positive (0.55%)

The Health Ministry on Monday announced 262 new COVID-19 infections, of which 28 were positive cases identified through antigen rapid tests conducted in the past few days and required confirmation by the PCR method.

Some 37 of Monday’s 262 cases involved people related to a special needs home in Liopetri, Famagusta, while a number of cases involved yet more people from nursing homes in Nicosia and Limassol.

Cyprus COVID-19 tally since the pandemic has reached 8,947, which means that about 1% of the population is confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus.