COVID19: 1 death and 254 new cases, as Cyprus considers lifting local lockdowns

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An elderly man from a rural care home with a COVID-19 cluster died on Wednesday, raising the death toll to 47, as Cyprus announced 254 new cases and is pondering lifting the partial lockdown on coronavirus-infested Limassol and Paphos next week.

The Health Ministry said that the 82 year old man, with underlying issues, had been admitted to Limassol General hospital, after being taken there from the Kyperounda community care home.

The mountain village reported 27 SARS-CoV-2 cases on the weekend of October 30 and November 1, with more infections reported since then.

Wednesday’s new cases, raising the national total for infections to 9,453, included confirmations using the more accurate PCR method of 46 antigen rapid tests conducted on previous days, results of which are available within 30 minutes. Two more rapid tests came back negative.

On Tuesday, the health ministry announced two deaths and 252 new cases, of which 64 were infections discovered through rapid tests over the previous days, but needed PCR confirmation. One rapid test result was confirmed as negative.

Of the new cases, 35 were from the Klimentios old people’s home in Ayios Antonios, Nicosia. A staff member had been tested positive from a rapid test and the health ministry dispatched a mobile testing unit to the home, where all 109 staff and inmates were tested.

In all, the ministry said that 11,986 tests were conducted, of which 6,431 used the PCR testing and the rest were rapid tests, where 97 new cases were discovered, pending confirmation.

Some 51 coronavirus infections were discovered from among testing of workers employed in Limassol or Paphos, who need to be tested in order to get a curfew pass and be exempted from travel restrictions. Two passengers from among 202 tests on arrivals at Larnaca and Paphos airports also tested positive.

A total 107 patients are being treated at state hospitals, of whom 62 at the Covid-referral clinic of the Famagusta General hospital.

News reports suggest that the partial lockdown on Limassol and Paphos, the epicentre of the worst infection clusters in recent weeks, may be lifted on Monday, but strict measures will remain in place.

These include closing elementary and gymnasium high schools a week earlier than planned, and taking all lyceum upper schools to online lessons up until the Christmas break.

In Limassol, the curfew may be delayed by an hour from 8pm to 9pm, while some shops may be allowed to open, such as malls and hair salons, a measure that will be extended islandwide to mid-December.

However, reports suggest that Christmas celebrations will be limited to possibly 15 per household, with some limitations in place for church services, presently allowing an attendance of 75.

As regards the clinical state of Limassol, despite the infection rate during the past 14 days dropping to below 500 per 100,000 population, 44% of all new cases were in Limassol, while for the past 7 days, that rate dropped to 41%. Furthermore, half of all patients being treated for COVID-19 are from Limassol, while three quarters or 74% of all deaths so far have been from Limassol.

President Nicos Anastasiades chaired a meeting of the advisory team of epidemiologists, as well as the ministers of health, finance, labour and justice. He will confer with the same group on Friday and later announce new measures.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Cabinet also approved the purchase of 400,000 more antigen rapid test kits to monitor the epidemiological picture of Cyprus and contain the coronavirus.

A statement by the health ministry said this will contribute to the early detection of transmission chains and consequently help to immediately isolate individuals with a positive result, to reduce the chances of the virus spreading.

Also, more tests will be carried out in military camps while a screening programme for rapid tests will be implemented at schools.

A team of 40 volunteer students from medical schools will help ensure that health measures and protocols in places like care homes are fully implemented.

Meanwhile, the energy and trade ministry announced that the state handicraft centre and retail shop will remain closed until December 9 after a positive case was traced there . Staff will be home isolated and the entire facility will be disinfected.