Cyprus is bracing itself for another lockdown in the coming days as the number of hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients reaches a new high, putting ever-increasing pressure on the health system.
Under the weight of hundreds of daily cases, the government is expected to announce new measures on Thursday, after epidemiologists reevaluate data on the spread of the virus.
New coronavirus cases have been in the hundreds since October 27 with the exception of Christmas and Boxing Day when a small number of tests were carried out.
On Sunday, Cyprus reported two COVID-19 deaths and saw a drop in daily cases to 529, following a record high of 907 on December 29.
The Health Ministry said the number of patients treated for SARS-CoV-2 continues to rise, reaching a record 182 on Sunday, up from 168 on New Year’s Day.
Some 71 patients are being treated at the COVID-19 reference hospital Famagusta General with officials expecting another 200 admissions within the coming days.
Patients admitted at the at Famagusta General hospital was 71, one less from the day before, with health ministry officials saying the initial phase of the national health system anticipates 200 admissions.
Final decisions are expected to be taken on Thursday, when the Cabinet will assess options for what measures should apply after January 10 when the existing ones expire.
It is understood, authorities will either choose to extend measures already in place or impose a total lockdown.
Authorities are working out the impact of a lockdown on the economy before making any decisions.
The ministers of health, finance and education will hold separate talks, looking into various scenarios prior to the cabinet meeting.
Scientists have confirmed that the new strain of coronavirus identified in the UK has been found in Cyprus as well.
The new strain has an increased viral load with a higher transmission rate, meaning it spreads quicker.
It is thought to be at least partially behind the current surge in numbers seen around Europe and the higher levels of hospitalisation.
Some 529 new SARS-CoV-2 cases announced on Sunday took the country’s COVID-19 infection tally to 23,974 and 131 deaths.
Cyprus has been under a light lockdown since 13 December with a 9 pm curfew in place and restaurants, bars and cafes allowed only to offer take-aways and delivery, while malls were closed entirely.
Last week, the government extent ed the ‘light lockdown’, by introducing a ban on all home visits and restricted the bubble to household members only.
Civil servants were told to work from home, leaving the state to operate with a skeleton staff.
Cyprus endured a harsh lockdown in March, that was gradually lifted in May when only essential services and shops were allowed to operate and people needed to receive approval by text message to leave the home.