Cyprus had two deaths and 403 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the third highest daily rate this month and to date, with the number of deaths since the pandemic started rising to 72.
In all, 23 people have died during the first ten days of December, nearly a third of all deaths so far.
This alarming rate of SARS-CoV-2 cases prompted the government to announce stricter national measures as of Friday morning, that include closing shopping malls, restaurants and cafés until December 31, church services without the public present, and high school and university students returning to online lessons.
The hospitality sector says it’s facing bankruptcy following the government’s decision to close restaurants, cafes, bars, cinemas and theatres in a bid to reduce the second wave of coronavirus.
Phanos Leventis, of the Leisure and Entertainment Establishment Owners Association, told the Financial Mirror that cafes, bars, and restaurants feeling the brunt of ‘exhaustive’ measures will perish without a generous state bailout package.
Of the new COVID-19 cases announced by the health ministry, 152 were PCR molecular method confirmations of the less accurate antigen rapid tests conducted on previous days. This raised the total number of infections since March to 14,052.
The health ministry added that 106 people are currently being treated at state hospitals, ten less than the 116 the day before, with 20 patients described as ‘critical’.
Some 14,567 tests were conducted on Thursday, of which 3,736 were PCR tests and 10,831 rapid tests that diagnosed 236 new coronavirus cases that will require confirmation over the next few days.
At 78, the capital Nicosia once again had the highest number of cases diagnosed by the quick-testing method that produces results within 30 minutes. Larnaca was next with 70, followed by Famagusta with 21. Limassol and Paphos, that had the highest intensity of COVID-19 in early November, resulting in a partial lockdown in the second half of the month, had the lowest infections, with 14 and 13, respectively.
The two elderly patients who died were an 81 year old man who was being treated at Nicosia General hospital, and an 83 year old woman, admitted from the Chrysi Ilikia (“Golden Age”) care home to the Covid-referral clinic at Famagusta General.
Both had underlying health issues, according to the health ministry, with 47 among men and 25 women. The average age remains 77 years.
Cyprus has gone from being among the best-performing countries in Europe in keeping a lid on COVID-19 cases, to being one of the worst, with complacency over the arrival of a vaccine allowing people to relax social distancing measures.
Following a backlash over restrictions coming into force Friday, the government defended its decision saying Cyprus is in line with the rest of Europe in banning hospitality and shopping malls over Christmas.
The health ministry said on Thursday that according to recent data from the European Center for Infectious Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) collected from 31 countries, governments are focusing on restricting social gatherings, similar to measures in Cyprus.
According to the latest ECDC data, Cyprus reporting some 274.3 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people over a seven-day period, ranking it fifth behind Croatia (576.8), the US (440.7), Sweden (358.5) and Switzerland (322.9).
The safe benchmark for the ECDC is 150 per 100,000.