COVID19: Drop of new cases to 164 not enough to lift all measures

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The gradual slowdown of new coronavirus cases to 164 and the stabilisation of patient numbers being treated for COVID-19 are no reason to celebrate, with the current restrictions expected to stay in place well after the present lockdown expires at the end of the month.

The health ministry said that an elderly man died on Tuesday, while the patient numbers admitted with SARS-CoV-2 were a mere five less than Monday, still too close to the 200-capacity figure at state hospitals.

The 81 year old man who succumbed at the dedicated Covid-clinic at Famagusta General hospital raised the death toll for the month to 53, rapidly catching up with December’s record 76, with the total since March now 176.

To date, 117 were men and 59 women, with an average age of 80 years.

Some media reports, based on leaks from the government, had started speculating that the lockdown measures could be lifted from February 1, with a relaxation of enterprises allowed to reopen, but maintaining a night curfew.

However, for this to happen, virologists have contended that daily new cases of SARS-CoV-2 should drop far below 100.

Of the 194 patients at Covid wards in four hospitals, 59 are critical, five more than Monday. Some 63 are being treated at the dedicated unit at Famagusta General.

Following 8,366 tests conducted in the last 24 hours, the number of new SARS-CoV-2 cases rose to 164, two more than Monday and seven more than Sunday, but far from the record 907 on December 29.

Total infections since the pandemic started has now reached 29,294, with the 30,000 barrier expected to be broken by the end of the week.

Of the 164 new infections diagnosed on Tuesday, 35 were traced to existing contacts, one was a passenger who was positive from among 260 tests at Larnaca and Paphos airports.

On a positive note, 16 tests conducted on passengers who had arrived from the U.K. and had been in quarantine at local hotels for seven days, were negative and were allowed to continue in self isolation at home. They will be re-tested in a few days.

Of the 6,499 less accurate antigen rapid tests, 83 were diagnosed with COVID-19, of which 28 in Limassol, 28 in Nicosia, 13 in Larnaca, 3 in Famagusta district and 2 in Paphos.

From targeted testing programmes, 4 were from old people’s homes, 3 were diagnosed with COVID-19 from 710 tests of bank employees and 2 were soldiers serving in the National Guard.


Vaccine boost from Pfizer-BioNTech

Meanwhile, as news of delays in the arrival of vaccines started to worry many people, the Cyprus government said it had secured 565,000 additional doses from Pfizer-BioNTech, but these will only arrive in the second and third quarters.

Nicosia now expects a total of 957,000 jabs from Pfizer-BioNTech to be delivered, for a total 3.5 million doses from eight pharmaceuticals with which the European Commission has placed orders on behalf of member states.

Cyprus can now vaccinate about 120,000 people by the end of March (first quarter) and an additional 450,000 people by the end of June (second quarter).

Provided that the vaccines under consideration from AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are approved and based on expected delivery, the goal is to fully cover the adult population by the end of September (third quarter) of 2021, said the Health Ministry.