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COVID19: Cyprus mulls another national lockdown

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Scientists are meeting President Nicos Anastasiades on Tuesday to decide whether Cyprus should enter another lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19 causing chaos in the health system.

With the health system under immense pressure, epidemiologists submitted their proposals to President Nicos Anastasiades on Tuesday.

Any decisions on tightening restrictions will be taken at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

On Monday, the COVID scientific advisory team met the Health Minister with indications pointing to the authorities set to instruct people to stay at home once more.

In the March lockdown, people were allowed to leave their homes just once a day, and that after receiving approval from the authorities through an SMS system.

When the lockdown was eased in May people were allowed to leave their homes three times a day. Both options are said to be on the table.

Reportedly, ministers disagree on the extremity of the measures being discussed while other government departments, such as the Ministry of Education, does not favour closing schools due to the impact this will have on working parents.

Some experts argued for a lighter form of lockdown than the one imposed in March, which saw non-essential businesses close and people confined to their homes, allowed only to go to work or shop for food.

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.

Meanwhile, Cyprus has discovered 12 cases of a highly infectious new coronavirus variant in people who recently travelled from Britain, and in one locally infected case, the Health Ministry said on Monday.

The new variant of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2, VOC 202012/01), now spreading around the world, was first found in the UK and is more transmissible than the original variant of the virus first identified in China a year ago.

It is understood that concerns regarding impacts on the economy will be playing a role on the government’s decisions, with the ministers of health, finance and education are to hold separate talks, looking into various scenarios prior to the cabinet meeting.

Another variant affecting government decisions is the education system’s readiness to make to the switch to online learning, with the experience from the first lockdown revealing that Cyprus is not yet ready for such a move.

Some 2,300 computers that were to be installed at schools to facilitate distance learning after the Christmas holidays, have yet to be received according to reports.

The decisive factor will be hospital admissions and the pressure they have put on the health system.

The health ministry on Monday said that the number of patients diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 and being treated in state hospitals was two less than the day before when patients reached a record number of 182.

With the capacity for COVID-19 patients estimated at 200, the hospitals’ operator OKYPY is said to have instructed the general hospitals in Limassol and Nicosia to increase their beds.

Cyprus authorities on Monday reported the deaths of two elderly patients and some 665 new coronavirus cases, bringing the country’s COVD-19 case tally to 24,639 and 133 deaths.