COVID19: Cyprus in vaccine race to lift all measures by May

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The government hopes to be able to lift all COVID-19 measures by early May, if people abide by the regulations and vaccinations pick up speed, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said Friday.

Ioannou said, his Ministry aims to safeguard the health system so that increased vaccination coverage will reduce the number of cases needed to be hospitalised.

He called on the public to respect the new lockdown to achieve the desired results, allowing for a speedier de-escalation of measures with positive effects on both the economy and people’s mental health.

It is hoped the vaccination program will pick up speed once AstraZeneca’s vaccine is approved, allowing for measures to be entirely lifted by early May.

Ioannou said the majority of vaccines that Cyprus and the EU is to receive are from AstraZeneca. But until the vaccine is approved by the European Medicine Agency, Cyprus will have to make do with deliveries from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

To date, some 4,500 people have been vaccinated with Cyprus receiving 6,800 vaccines from Pfizer weekly and 16,000 Moderna doses are expected this month.

Ioannou said AstraZeneca is applying for EMA approval on Monday.

“We may have the first vaccines late January or early February. That will add tens of thousands of vaccines a month”.

The first stage of Cyprus’ vaccination program, covering residents and health workers at nursing homes is to be completed on Sunday.

Ioannou said Friday saw the start of phase 2 with people older than 80, noting that Cyprus is the first EU country to move into this stage. People over 75 are next in line.

“If 20% of a population is vaccinated prioritizing vulnerable groups, then hospital admissions will drop by 80%”.

If around 150,000 people are vaccinated, something he hopes to be done by mid-April, hospital admissions and, consequently, pressure on the health system can be drastically reduced.

Answering criticism from opposition parties accusing the government of not handling the crisis in a timely and effective manner, the minister said the government has not failed in handling the second wave.

“If the criterion is what is happening in the rest of the world, then we do not consider that Cyprus has failed in any way in managing the second wave.

“Cyprus is still being hit by the second wave while other countries are experiencing the third wave. This is thanks to measures the country has been taking since last August,” said Ioannou.

“Mistakes have been made, no one expected measures to be infallible, however, a huge effort is being made.

“Measures that were effective in September or October or even November are not effective in December, not only in Cyprus but also in all European countries.”