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 giving the government no option on harsher interventions.
Following a backlash over restrictions coming into force Friday, the government has defended its decision saying Cyprus is in line with the rest of Europe in banning hospitality and shopping malls over Christmas.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the Health Ministry said 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, quoted by the Paul Charles travel consultancy agency, Cyprus is now fifth-worst travel destinations from the UK in terms of accumulated COVID cases.
Latest figures have 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).
Due to the worsening outlook, the Health Ministry said it had to act and its restrictions are no different from the majority of European countries in efforts to stem the spread of coronavirus.
The majority of countries listed have imposed restrictions on mass gatherings and social activities with only 11 out of 31 ECDC countries opting for more lenient measures but do include limiting social gatherings.
According to the Health Ministry, the majority of countries on the list, have closed catering establishments, gyms, and other leisure facilities which are considered a higher risk for spreading of the virus.
“Given the concern expressed by the scientific community across Europe about a possible deterioration of the epidemiological picture over the Christmas holidays, the ECDC in a recent report notes that activities such as public and private social gatherings, especially during Christmas, pose a higher risk and will need to be restricted,” said the ministry announcement.
The Health Ministry said the ECDC urged authorities to gradually lift measures to prevent a resurgence of the virus, which would push up the number of patients needing hospitalisation, and consequently deaths.