COVID19: Cyprus cases firmly high, prompting new lockdown

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Cyprus reported four coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, a rise in patient numbers and a stable, yet high tally of 573 new COVID-19 cases, vindicating the government’s intention to impose a second national lockdown.

News reports suggest the new plan will come into effect on Sunday and should last until the end of January.

The Cabinet will take its final decision on Friday, with President Anastasiades briefed by his health advisors on Tuesday on the options available on how best to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cabinet meeting, initially scheduled for Thursday, has been postponed by a day, allowing time for the competent ministers of Finance, Labour and Education to come up with fresh furlough and aid plans for businesses and individuals, as well as for schooling.

On Monday, the COVID scientific advisory team met the Health Minister with the authorities leaning towards instructing people to stay at home once more.

In the April lockdown, people could leave their homes once a day after receiving approval from the authorities through an SMS system.

The four new deaths, counting 13 so far in January and 138 to date, included three men aged 76 to 79, all with underlying health issues, but also a 69 year old man with no previous health issues.

December was the worst month since March with 76 deaths.

However, government officials are equally concerned by the doggedly high number of 187 patients admitted to the hospitals in all towns, including 65 at the Covid-reference clinic at Famagusta General.

Just over a quarter, or 49 of the 187 patients, are in a critical state.

A total 10,201 tests were conducted on Wednesday, despite it being a public holiday for Epiphany Day.

The 573 new SARS-CoV-2 cases were diagnosed by the PCR molecular method and the less-accurate antigen rapid tests. The total for all infections since the pandemic started is now 25,781.

Most of the positive rapid test results were discovered in Limassol (100), Nicosia (95), Larnaca (64), Paphos (18) and Famagusta district (7).


The lockdown measures, with some exceptions

The new lockdown measures anticipated on Friday will probably last for three weeks, to January 31, with all retail shops closing down, as well as private sector businesses and public service enterprises such as hairdressers, barber shops, beauty and nail salons.

Only essential services will be allowed to operate, including food chain enterprises, supermarkets, bakeries, confectioners, fruit markets and kiosks, with strict health regulations.

The construction sector will be allowed to work, as well as private sector businesses that do not serve the public.

All schools – elementary, secondary, upper high school and universities – will attend virtual classes through distance learning. Only kindergartens will continue to operate with a physical presence of children.

In contrast to the previous lockdown, airports and ports will be allowed to operate normally.