As epidemiological data improves after spiralling out of control, Cyprus can plan the gradual lifting of a lockdown to contain coronavirus, said Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou on Thursday.
Cyprus went into its second lockdown on January 10 after a roller coaster of cases peaked at 907 on 29 December.
Encouraged by a drop in daily cases to under 200 for four days running, and positive test rates conducted remaining under 2%, some measures could be lifted when the lockdown ends on 31 January.
“The drop in the positivity rate in combination with the reduction of the detected cases, are indications the spread of the virus has come under control, which is what we were aiming for with the recent restrictive measures,” said Ioannou in a statement Thursday.
He cautioned, “the Health System is still under great pressure and the situation in the Intensive Care Units, although under control, remains particularly difficult”.
Provided that COVID data continues to improve over the next days, a gradual lifting of measures will commence from 1 February, according to the Minister.
A technical committee of officials from the Ministries of Health, Finance, Labor, Education and Trade is working on the recommendations made by the Scientific Advisory Committee’s de-escalation strategy.
“This is so that rebooting the economy can take place smoothly and effectively with the least possible problems,” said Ioannou.
Local media reported that experts are contemplating lifting a ban on movement but keep the 9 pm curfew in place while reopening retail shops.
The Health Minister said that wide-scale screening of the population for coronavirus will continue, as measures are lifted with authorities focusing on rapid testing people for those returning to work.
He said the majority of EU countries are on standby, expecting a third wave of infections, or a worsening of the current second wave.
“Cyprus remains in the red zone but the partial improvement of the epidemiological data reflects the effectiveness of the measures implemented at the end of December and people’s sacrifices.”
Ioannou said that the aim is to maintain a good epidemiological picture to safeguard public health.
“It not yet clear when this health crisis will come to an end, therefore, in the months to follow, and until the population is shielded by vaccinations, we have to stay alert and prepared to avoid any setbacks.”
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 on Wednesday reported another 178 new COVID-19 cases out of 9,884 tests carried out (positivity rate 1.8%%), pushing the to 29,472.
There were no deaths reported on Wednesday, so fatalities since March remain at 176.