COVID19: Cyprus breaks past 20,000 mark, despite vaccinations

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Cyprus reported an unprecedented 751 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with the total since the pandemic started breaking the 20,000 barrier, as vaccinations against the coronavirus slowly started getting underway.

The health ministry announced one death, 153 patients undergoing treatment and an all-time high of 751 new cases of SARS-CoV-2, raising the total to 20,408 infections since March.

The first batch of 9,750 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines arrived on Boxing Day and a limited number of vaccinations began on Sunday, including elderly residents and carers at some retirement homes, as well frontline health workers at the Covid-reference clinic of Famagusta General hospital.

High-ranking civil servants, who are not frontline health workers (doctors and nurses) jumped the queue and took advantage of the highly publicised vaccination programme, with health ministry sources saying there was no protocol giving precedence to government employees.

This caused a public outcry as the general public is still unaware how the dispensation of the vaccine will proceed, with a long-awaited online platform for registrations not yet operational. The initial plan is for senior citizens aged 80 and above the be vaccinated, followed by 75 year olds and those considered vulnerable.

The only exception to the strict protocol was President Nicos Anastasiades who got his jab on Monday morning in an effort to raise public awareness to counter naysayers and Covid-deniers.

He called the vaccination a “gift of life” for Cyprus and said there is now hope that the pandemic, which overturned peoples’ normal lives and livelihoods will finally come to an end.

Exiting the Latsia outpatients health centre, Anastasiades said there is still a long way to go until the final victory, and that Cypriots must continue taking protective measures and complying with government decrees.

He expressed confidence that normalcy will return in 2021 and that the government is arranging to cover the entire population of the Republic, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.


Tests labs were on holiday

The number of new daily COVID-19 cases is believed to be distorted as medical labs slowed down, and some even closed during the holidays, creating a back-log of tests that needed to be verified.

Monday’s death of an 81 year old man who was being treated at Limassol General hospital, raised the death toll to 113.

The number of patients being treated at state hospitals was 153, one less than Sunday and up from Saturday’s 149.

Of these, 51 are in a critical state, down from 57 on Sunday, a worrying number nevertheless for health officials who fear that the hospitals are already operating at full capacity.

Of the total, 63 are being treated at the dedicated Covid-reference clinic at Famagusta General hospital, five less than the day before.

In all, 13,482 tests were conducted on Monday, using both the PCR molecular method and the antigen rapid tests, that although quick to produce results in less than 30 minutes, are not as accurate.

However, the government said that it no longer need to confirm all positive results emanating from rapid tests by way of the PCR testing verification.

Monday’s positive results included three diagnosed from among 480 passengers arriving at Larnaca and Paphos airports.

There were a further three positive cases from 228 samples of passengers who had arrived from the U.K. a week earlier and required a confirmation test on the seventh day of their quarantine at state designated hotels.

Monday’s test results also included 449 diagnosed with COVID-19 from 10,881 rapid tests as part of the national free testing programme started on November 16.

These were traced in Nicosia (131), Larnaca (126), Limassol (76), Famagusta (32) and Paphos (23).

Fourteen were diagnosed at old people’s homes and ten were soldiers serving in the National Guard.


Minister urges rapid tests to continue

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou urged the public to take advantage of free antigen rapid test at various mobile units across the island.

“Early detection and immediate isolation of cases are crucial in trying to stop the further spread of the virus,” said the Minister.

He added that a spike in coronavirus cases is putting the health system under asphyxiating pressure with the situation threatening to get out of hand as hospital admissions rise.

Ioannou said he has re-evaluated the situation with the State Health Services Organization (OKYPY) and requested the assistance of private doctors to cover increased needs, as the public health system is reaching capacity and human resources limit.

December is the deadliest month since the outbreak in March, with 64 of the 113 COVID-19 deaths occurring.

Some 9,843 out of 20,408 confirmed COVID cases were recorded in December.