COVID19: January deaths to overtake December, despite start of vaccinations

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Five people died of COVID-19, the Cyprus health ministry announced on Monday, with January well on its way to surpassing December as the worst month since the pandemic started.

The five deaths – three men aged 79 to 91 and two women, 88 and 92 – raised the death toll for the month to 52, rapidly catching up with December’s 76. The total since March is now 175.

Two thirds, or 116, were men, with the average age rising again to 80.

However, 162 new SARS-CoV-2 cases were recorded, just five more than Sunday, but less than Saturday’s 202 and Friday’s 244, a trend that has seen a steady drop from the record 907 on December 29.

Since the national vaccination programme started on December 27, more than 10,000 have already received their first jab, with priority given to the elderly aged over 80 and front-line health workers.

The total number of infections since last March rose to 29,130, with the health ministry’s weekly statistics suggesting that about 6,000 of these new cases were diagnosed just after the Christmas holidays, from December 30 to January 12.

This prompted the government to introduce a second lockdown from January 10 to the end of this month, while some restrictions, such as a night curfew and closure of malls, restaurants, cafés and theatres had been imposed from last month.

What worries the experts more is the number of patients currently admitted in local hospitals, on occasions exceeding the 200-bed capacity under the current phase.

On Monday, the number of coronavirus patients requiring medical treatment was 199, down from 208 on Sunday. Of these, 55 are critical and 64 are being treated at the dedicated Covid-clinic at Famagusta General hospital.

The health ministry added that 9,384 tests were conducted employing the PCR molecular method, as well as the less-accurate antigen rapid tests.

Contact tracing of known infections identified 43 new cases, while six were diagnosed from among 577 tests on passengers arriving at Larnaca and Paphos airports.

One of Monday’s positive test results was a passenger who had arrived from the UK, had been in quarantine in a local hotel for seven days and required a negative test result to be allowed to go home.

Of the 80 positive results diagnosed from rapid tests, 30 were in Limassol, 21 in Nicosia, 16 in Larnaca, 4 in Famagusta district and 3 in Paphos.

One new case was diagnosed in an old people’s home in Limassol, and three were soldiers serving in the National Guard. Two were traced from among 675 tests among people who were exempt from the lockdown limitations and were working in non-essential service without contact with the public or in industrial units.

 

Half of over 80s already vaccinated

The vaccination rollout against COVID-19 has seen more than 50% of people over 80 given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or book an appointment to get inoculated, Health Ministry officials said on Monday.

Deputy head of medical services Olga Kalakouta said, “if everything goes according to plan, we will vaccinate everyone over 80 years of age by mid-February, before vaccinating people aged 75 and above”.

Around 33,000 people in Cyprus are aged over 80.

According to Health Ministry spokesperson Margarita Kyriacou, 10,266 have received the first of two jabs. This includes residents and staff of 114 out of the 121 care homes nationwide.

The second round of vaccinations started on Monday, including President Nicos Anastasiades.

Kalakouta said that “so far, no one in Cyprus has suffered side effects after having been administered the vaccine”.

Based on the national vaccination plan for COVID-19, the total amount of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines available to Cyprus is 391,637 (divided into 2 doses per person) until the third quarter of 2021.

The first batch of 1,200 doses of vaccines from US pharmaceutical Moderna arrived in Cyprus last week.

Cyprus will receive 16,500 doses from Moderna before the end of March, and the first vaccines from AstraZeneca should arrive by mid-February.

The biggest order for vaccines is from AstraZeneca, amounting to 1,192,043.