The Cyprus government announced a knee-jerk reaction on Tuesday to the alarmingly high number of 751 new COVID-19 cases reported the day before, by banning all home visitors and limiting the bubble to the members of the household.
It also decided to send nearly all civil servants’ home in order for them to work remotely, leaving the state to operate only with skeleton staff, a decision that slowed the government machine during earlier lockdowns.
At the same time the Ministry of Health updated the category list of public servants belonging to vulnerable groups to be sent to work from home. These include people with chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma, kidney and heart problems, immune deficiency related diseases, and diabetes.
Tuesday’s decisions are an extension to the measures in place until January 10, which despite closing restaurants, bars, cafes and malls entirely, allowed for some relaxation during holidays and the return of churchgoers for Christmas mass.
Despite the new restrictions and warnings from health officials, the administration is tolerating visits on New Year’s eve, in what is perceived as an attempt to avoid a public outcry, just as the vast majority of the people broke the ten-per-household rule and found ways to evade the restriction on Christmas Day.
Up to ten people from only two families or households will be allowed on New Year’s eve, when the curfew has been extended to 1am.
However, frontline health workers have warned of a worsening situation that could force the government to impose a new lockdown.
Asked by the Financial Mirror whether a gradual stepping up of measures could lead to a fully-fledged lockdown as experienced in March, Health Ministry spokesperson Margarita Kyriacou said, “all options are on the table. We are currently opting for a gradual tightening of measures, with the lockdown being our last resort”.
751 new cases send shockwaves
Monday’s daily coronavirus report sent shockwaves as the health ministry announced 751 new cases of the SARS-CoV-2.
Although some of the new cases were a result of a backlog in testing, as some labs closed for Christmas, a record 449 positive results were diagnosed from 10,881 antigen rapid tests on the day, that produce results in less than 30 minutes.
The overall positive rate of rapid tests carried out on Monday across the island was between 3% (recorded in Nicosia) and 7.11% (recorded in Famagusta).
The coronavirus outbreak is on the verge of getting out of hand as some 9,843 out of a total 20,048 COVID-19 infections recorded since the outbreak in March, occurred in December.
With three more days to go, December is already the deadliest month on record with 64 out of a total 113 deaths occurring with the month.
Turkish Cypriot authorities announced another 14 cases of SARS-CoV-2 on Monday, raising the total in the north to 1,506.
Divided Cyprus has now reported a total of 21,914 COVID-19 cases and 119 deaths since the pandemic started.