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COVID19: Crowded churches, shops pose needless risk

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Scenes of crowded churches and shops jeopardize the effectiveness of COVID-19 restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus after a record surge in November, officials warn.

The head of the government’s COVID committee, Dr Constantinos Tsioutis said on Tuesday that images of people crowding in churches and shops, making the rounds on social media, have epidemiologists extremely worried.

Pictures of crowded churches and shops also evidence that people are breaking the rules on social distancing or those responsible are allowing it to happen.

Under government COVID restrictions, churches services can only have a maximum of 75 people present while stricter social distancing applies for shops in relation to capacity.

“Nine months after the pandemic broke out, it would have been wiser not to have seen all these images of crowds of people and for everyone to have understood their individual and collective responsibility, the need to protect themselves and those around them,” said Tsioutis.

He said there are 120 COVID-19 patients treated at hospitals, with both them and their families having an anxious wait.

“At the same time, medical personnel and health professionals struggle day in and day out, with fatigue.”

Tsioutis said that as far as hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients are concerned, Cyprus is one of the few countries in Europe with available beds, although coming close to reaching a critical level.

He did, however, note that increasing demand for coronavirus beds is putting a strain on other wards.

Dr Tsioutis was talking at a press conference to present the latest epidemiological data, which shows an alarming increase in cases in the Nicosia and Famagusta districts.

Famagusta has overtaken Limassol as the new hotspot with a 14-day cumulative notification rate of 452.3 per 100,000 inhabitants from 383.8.

Cases in Nicosia are also increasing dangerously as the capital now has a 14-day cumulative notification rate of 335.1 per 100,000 up from 284.2.