An elderly man died on Sunday and 154 patients are being treated for COVID-19, pushing Cyprus hospitals to the limit, despite the start of a nationwide vaccination programme.
Pensioners at care homes in all towns were the first to receive a shot of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which arrived by air on Saturday.
Also, 20 healthcare workers at the COVID-19 reference hospital in Famagusta district were inoculated as part of an intensified drive across the European Union to curb the pandemic which has destroyed lives and its economy.
On Monday, President Nicos Anastasiades will be injected with the vaccine, also known as ‘Comirnaty’, during a public broadcast at the Latsia outpatients’ health centre to drum up public support for the EU-wide vaccination programme.
In all, Cyprus received just under 10,000 doses in the first batch and by the end of January, 50,000 vaccines are scheduled to arrive for 25,000 people.
Cyprus intends to inoculate the island’s entire population of around a million, including Turkish Cypriots, although getting the vaccine is not compulsory.
Sunday’s single death, an 81 year old male patient at Nicosia General hospital, raised the toll to 112, more than half in December alone, of whom 73 were men, 39 women, with an average age of 79 years.
At the same time, the health ministry said that the number of patients being treated at state hospitals has increased to 154, up from Saturday’s 149; 57 are in a critical state, a worrying number for health officials who fear that the hospitals are already operating at full capacity.
Of the total, 68 are being treated at the dedicated Covid-reference clinic at Famagusta General hospital.
Since the pandemic started, Cyprus has diagnosed 19,657 cases of SARS-CoV-2.
National rapid testing resumes
Sunday also saw the resumption of public free testing, with 1,970 samples taken by the PCR molecular method and 3,955 antigen rapid tests that were suspended during the Christmas break.
Of the 5,925 tests, 266 were diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2, including confirmations of 134 rapid tests conducted on previous days.
A further 238 rapid tests samples were positive for COVID-19 and will require PCR confirmation at the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics (CING).
Reports suggest the health ministry plan to lift this process very soon and positive rapid test results will be regarded as diagnosed coronavirus cases.
Sunday’s positive rapid test results were traced in Larnaca (83), Nicosia (67), Limassol (40), Famagusta (17) and Paphos (6). A further 21 were traced to old people’s homes in Nicosia and Larnaca.
However, of 450 PCR test samples taken among passengers arriving at Larnaca and Paphos airports, all were negative.