Two elderly men died in Cyprus on Tuesday, raising the COVID-19 death toll to 84 and the 339 new cases increasing the total of all infections since the pandemic started to 15,789.
Cyprus had reported under 2,000 cases of SARS-CoV-2 at the end of September and December is headed to become the worst month with 39 people dying, almost half of all deaths to date.
The health ministry’s announcement came as officials laid out details of the vaccination plan earlier in the day, expecting the first batch in early January destined initially for elderly people.
The two men who died, aged 74 and 91, had underlying health issues and were at the Covid-referral clinic of Famagusta General Hospital, where a further 63 patients are being treated. That accounts for half of the 122 patients in treatment, with the ministry saying that 22 are critical.
The worrying rate forced the government to impose a ‘light lockdown’ until December 31, including shutting all malls and restaurants, bars, cafés, cinemas and theatres. High school and university classes have gone back to online lessons.
Some 11,733 tests were conducted on Tuesday, of which 4,989 employed the PCR molecular method. Of these, 339 were diagnosed with coronavirus, including 98 confirmations of positive cases identified from the national antigen rapid test programme in previous days.
Contact tracing identified 86 cases. However, no positive cases were diagnosed from among 934 tests of passengers arriving at Larnaca and Paphos airports, nor from targeted testing of basketball and volleyball players.
A further 6,744 rapid tests produced 196 positive cases that will require PCR confirmation. The accuracy of the antigen rapid tests has been estimated at about 95-98%.
Of these, 31 were in Limassol, with a sample-to-positive rate of 5%, 60 in Larnaca (5.7%), 66 in Nicosia (2.75%), 8 in Paphos (2.86%), and 4 in Famagusta (2.52%).
Some 1,517 rapid tests were conducted in community and care homes, producing just 3 positive cases. These will require PCR confirmation.
Cyprus to get ‘fair share’ of vaccines
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said although Cyprus has not been given an exact date for the first batch of vaccines, the country “will be receiving its fair share of the vaccines at the same time with the rest of the European Union”.
The minister said Cypriots must continue applying personal protection measures and abide by social distancing and government rules.
Deputy head of the state medical services Olga Kalakouta said the first vaccines will arrive in early January from Pfizer/BioNTech.
An online logistic system will be introduced to monitor the vaccination process that will take place in 38 centres at a rate of 350 people a day.
Kalakouta said that vaccinations will take place only by appointments through an online portal, people will receive an SMS with the date and the place they are to be vaccinated. The portal will also remind people of the date of the second dose.
Priority will be given to staff and residents of care homes, people with chronic diseases and healthcare professionals.
In the coming weeks, Cyprus expects delivery of 168,000 doses, the first 48,000 from Pfizer-BioNTech, then regular deliveries of vaccines every three months.
The health services will be receiving two special refrigerating units on December 19 for storing the vaccines.
In total, Cyprus has ordered around 3 mln doses from AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sanofi & Glaxo, Curevac, Moderna, Novavax and Janssen, with each vaccine requiring two shots for immunity (apart from Janssen).
Delivery of vaccine doses is expected until the second quarter of 2022 for AstraZeneca.