Plans to gradually unlock its economy from a three-week lockdown are not affected by a new potent UK strain of coronavirus finding its way to Cyprus as measures were stepped up at entry points.
The new potent variant found in the UK is expected to push COVID-19 cases up over the next one to three months, as the EU warned member states to step up measures at airports.
Last week, the Commission urged member states to limit non-essential travel while council president Ursula von der Leyen called on countries to implement measures to prevent the closure of borders, but also a future lockdown.
“As has already been pointed out in statements by the President of the European Commission, but also by officials, there is an intense concern, as in the next six to 12 weeks an epidemiological burden is expected to be observed in the EU, due to the increased transmissibility and aggressive spread of the new variant,” the Health Ministry said on Monday.
In comments to the Financial Mirror, Dr Peter Karayiannis said the scientific team advising the government is not overly concerned about the new strain.
Scientists believe that although it has been detected in Cyprus, it has been brought under control.
“From tests carried out by the Genetics Institute, just 12 cases were found from travellers coming in from the UK and one from the community.
“These cases were isolated in a timely manner, so we do not believe that the new strain had the chance to spread,” said Karayiannis.
Acknowledging, that its “better to be safe than sorry”, Karayiannis said Cyprus has long fortified itself against importing new strains or more coronavirus cases with tests at airports and quarantine.
“Cyprus has requested that all passengers from the UK must present a negative test not older than 72 hours prior to their arrival for some time now.”
Since December 21, the UK has been placed in category C, which means that only Cypriots, permanent residents, and people with a special permit can enter Cyprus.
Arrivals on all flights from the UK are tested for COVID-19 then taken to designated hotels for mandatory seven-day quarantine.
A second test is performed on the seventh day after arrival and those with a negative result must continue to self-isolate until they have completed 10 days in total, in their homes.
Karayiannis said Cyprus’ plan to gradually lift lockdown measures is not affected by the new strain but there will be extra caution over relaxing measures at the airports.
“Current measures will probably not allow the new strain to spread in Cyprus. But people have to do their part and continue abiding by hygiene and self-protection rules like hand washing and wearing a mask.”