COVID19: Cyprus imposes second national lockdown

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Cyprus will impose a second national lockdown since the outbreak last March to stop COVID-19 spreading after recent restrictions failed to do so.

Announcing the lockdown Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said the measures – which take effect from Sunday until at least January 31 – are to protect the health service.

“For the next three weeks we will have to stay in our homes to stop the spread of the virus,” Ioannou told reporters.

“The effort aims to drastically reduce social and professional gatherings in homes and workplaces because that is where most (Covid-19) cases are found,” he added.

Under the new rules, people will only be allowed out of their homes twice a day for essential travel or exercise while all non-vital businesses will close.

Unlike the first lockdown in March, the airports and ports will remain open.

People wanting to leave their homes for exercise, shopping, or an emergency will need to receive official approval by mobile text message, as in March.

All Schools will close with students returning to remote learning.

On 30 November Cyprus introduced an eight-hour night-time curfew to tame the pandemic, closed hospitality venues and shopping malls before Christmas then household visits were banned during the holidays.

A daily curfew between 9 pm to 5 am remains in place and only top-tier professional sport is allowed. All social and public gatherings are also banned.

Retail shops, shopping malls, hair salons, cinemas, theatres, gyms, museums are to close.

Covid-19 cases have continued to rise with December the deadliest month on record while hospital admissions reached record highs.

Coronavirus infections in December also broke new ground registering 12,086 – more than the previous nine months combined.

Over half (55 per cent) of the 140 coronavirus deaths recorded nationwide since the outbreak have come in December.

The Health Ministry registered 427 new virus cases on Thursday, taking the total number of recorded infections to 26,208.

Cyprus had largely kept a lid on the pandemic by introducing an early lockdown in March that was gradually eased from early May.

Health authorities blame the spike on Cypriots flouting hygiene rules, including on mask-wearing and social distancing.

Face masks are mandatory indoors and outdoors, except at home.

The government hopes the lockdown will enable it to get ahead of the virus by increasing rapid tests and vaccinations.

Cyprus has begun rolling out a vaccination programme against COVID-19 with over 4,500 people already inoculated.

Ioannou said the second wave of coronavirus has hit Cyprus hard especially with the new variant found in the UK also reaching the island.

“The second wave of the pandemic is much faster than the first, a fact that scientists attribute to the new strain of the virus, which was also detected in Cyprus,” said Ioannou.

“The increase in patients who need specialized care…is the critical indicator that determines the decisions of all Governments plagued by the health crisis,” he added.

Cyprus hope to vaccinate 20 per cent of the population by mid-April.