Despite an impressive uptick in epidemiological data with COVID-19 cases remaining under 200, experts say that it is too soon for Cyprus to start thinking about totally lifting the lockdown.
In comments to the Financial Mirror, Dr Peter Karayiannis refuted media reports which claim authorities are contemplating a speedy relaxation of measures.
The virologist said that Cyprus should ‘unlock’ gradually and slowly.
“If the downward trend of cases continues, the gradual lifting of the restrictions and the lockdown, could begin from 1 February, but this is more likely to follow the pace of the first lockdown in May,” said Karayiannis.
Local reports say the COVID-19 Advisory Committee is preparing its proposals for a targeted restart that will not lead to an increase in transmission of the virus.
According to the media, apart from allowing people to leave home freely, experts are also contemplating lifting the ban on shops, including malls.
Reportedly, experts are even considering allowing up to 50 churchgoers to attend services and ceremonies while home visits are to be allowed, as long as there are no more than 10 people present.
That is reverting to the measures in effect before Christmas.
“I don’t see that happening if cases remain at around 150 or so. Unlocking everything with such a high number of cases would be risking everything and could lead to a new lockdown in two weeks,” said Karayiannis.
He does not expect high-risk businesses and places where a large number of people gather to be in the first wave of relaxations.
Karayiannis said the number of people with COVID-19 in hospital and the positivity rate of tests carried out will also play their role in decisions to be taken.
Last week, hospitalizations ranged from 198 to 208, coming close to the record 209 people hospitalised on New Year’s Eve.
On Monday, Cyprus also reported another five deaths, taking the total since March to 175.
“Cyprus’ progress regarding its vaccination program will also play a role.
“Currently 12,000 people have been vaccinated. In combination with some 30,000 people who have contracted the coronavirus, we now have around 4% herd immunity rate.”
The virologist added: “If we are able to get the community’s immunity rate up to 25% with vaccinations by March, then we will be more comfortable as a large portion of the elderly and vulnerable will be safe”.
The January 10 lockdown is scheduled to end at the end of the month.
Hospitality and retail shops have closed, home visits are banned, people can only leave home twice a day, there is a 9 pm curfew lasting until 5 am.
Cyprus went on lockdown after a rollercoaster of COVID-19 cases peaking at 907 on 29 December.