COVID19: 5 deaths, 402 new cases in Cyprus vindicates extended measures

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Five people died of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the biggest number in a single day as the death toll passed the 100-mark, justifying the Cyprus government’s decision not to relax health measures during the holidays, despite public discontent.

With the number of deaths now at 101, and 402 new coronavirus cases raising the total of all infections since March to 18,406, the council of ministers decided earlier in the day to extend the restrictions introduced on December 9 to January 10.

The only relaxations allowed will be a later curfew on Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and allowing limited churchgoers only for Christmas mass and on January 6, Epiphany Day.

Initially, ministers had said the measures would expire at the end of the December, but would review the epidemiological situation before taking any decision, especially as many hoped measures would be relaxed in time for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

“The number of hospitalised patients is between 110 and 130 people, while the number of intubated patients in the intensive care units is high, burdening the country’s health system,” Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said after the cabinet meeting.

“What is of greater concern is the daily number of deaths that continue, an indication that measures need to be taken to protect those considered as high-risk.”

December is by far the worst month since the pandemic started, accounting for 50 of the 101 deaths to date. On Monday, the number was revised up to 96 after four deaths of elderly people at their care homes earlier in the month were not reported to the authorities in time.

The health ministry said in its daily bulletin that 130 patients are currently being treated at state hospitals, of whom 32 are critical. On Monday, the number of patients was 131, with 31 in a critical state.

All of the five new deaths – three men and two women – involved patients with underlying health issues. They were aged 66 to 101 and were being treated at the Nicosia and Limassol General hospitals, the dedicated Covid-clinic at Famagusta General and the Soleas community medical centre.

Demos Antoniou, the head of the senior citizens’ right group, urged people to get vaccinated in order to protect the groups of the population who are the most vulnerable.

“Almost every other day we find ourselves being attacked by COVID-19 deniers, accusing us of attributing the deaths to people with a weak health either from other underlining problems or old age,” he told the Financial Mirror.

“Who can decide when it is acceptable for one to die? These people had at least the chance to spend one more Christmas with their loved ones,” Antoniou said.

 

Waiting for the vaccines

Last weekend, Cyprus took delivery of two cold-storage freezers that will keep the first doses of the Comirnaty vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech that are expected on the island on Boxing Day, with their dispensation starting the next day as part of an EU-wide plan.

The health ministry said that 4,088 PCR molecular tests were conducted on Tuesday, as well as 8,570 antigen rapid tests. In all, 402 cases of SARS-Cov-2 were diagnosed of which 135 were PCR confirmations of the less-accurate rapid tests from previous days.

Tuesday’s rapid tests, part of the national programme of free testing in all towns and districts, with results available in less than 30 minutes, produced 231 new positive cases that will require PCR confirmation.

Larnaca had most of the new cases, at 86, followed by Nicosia (61), Limassol (43), Famagusta (11) and Paphos).

A soldier serving in the National Guard was traced as positive, as well as two people in care homes for the elderly and 16 from private testing.

All 57 tests of a targeted PCR testing programme at Kato Pyrgos village in northern Paphos district produced 57 negative results, while from 815 samples of passengers arriving at Larnaca and Paphos airports, three positive cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed.