COVID19: Cyprus ends year with record deaths, no easing measures says president

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Cyprus ended its pandemic year with a record high in coronavirus deaths and patient admissions, and a mild drop in daily COVID-19 cases, with the country’s president saying restrictions could not be eased for now.

Six people died on Thursday, five men aged 79 to 91 and a 90-year-old woman, raising the death toll to 125, nearly two thirds of whom or 76 in December alone – 83 were men and 42 women with an average age of 80 years.

At the same time, the health ministry said that the number of patients had risen to 160, of whom 68 are admitted at the Covid-reference clinic at Famagusta General hospital. In all, 46 patients are in a critical state, up from 41 the day before.

Cyprus ended the year with a total of 22,651 people infected with SARS-CoV-2 since March, having recorded 632 new SARS-CoV-2 cases on the last day of the year. The only good news was the arrival of the first batch of 9,750 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech on Boxing Day and the inoculation programme gradually getting under way on December 27.

In his address to the nation, President Nicos Anastasiades said that the epidemiological situation “does not leave room for easing measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, as this would lead to stricter measures in the future.”

With the daily cases surging to an unprecedented 751 on Monday and Tuesday’s record 907, the government imposed a ban on all home visits and restricted the bubble to household members only. It also sent nearly all civil servants to work from home, leaving the state to operate only with skeleton staff.

Tuesday’s decisions were an extension of the measures in place until January 10, which despite closing restaurants, bars, cafes and malls entirely, allowed for some relaxation during the holidays and the return of churchgoers for Christmas mass.

Up to ten people from only two families or households were be allowed on New Year’s eve, when the curfew was extended to 1am.


Financial aid package on its way

In his televised New Year’s message, President Anastasiades added that within the next few days his Finance Minister would be announcing a new financial aid package to help workers and companies.

He said that as regards the pandemic, “the year 2020 will be recorded as one of the most devastating for humanity in modern history, in time of peace.”

He noted that Cyprus is struggling to address the most aggressive phase of the pandemic, avoiding harsher measures taken by European and other countries.

The health ministry said that 12,643 tests were conducted on New Year’s eve, using both the PCR molecular method and the less-accurate antigen rapid tests.

Only two positive cases were diagnosed from 474 tests on passengers arriving at Larnaca and Paphos airports, down from seven the day before.

Travellers from the UK are placed in quarantine in local hotels until the lapse of 7 or ten days for a confirmation test to allow them to leave.

Contact tracing diagnosed 152 new cases, while the biggest number of 105 positive results from the rapid tests were discovered in Larnaca. Nicosia was not far behind with 103 positive rapid tests, followed by Limassol with 72, Famagusta (28) and Paphos (10).