Health authorities in the Turkish occupied north of the island reported a record number of 62 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, as they were set to lift some lockdown measures, similar to a relaxation south of the border earlier this week.
The Turkish Cypriot authorities had planned to revise a lockdown in northern Nicosia and Kyrenia as of Wednesday, but the new high in COVID-19 cases has forced them to reconsider.
January was the worst month on record with 713 cases and seven deaths caused by the SARS-CoV-2.
The previous record was 466 cases recorded in December, with only one patient dying.
The Republic of Cyprus reported 128 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, raising the total to date to 31,124.
The death toll since the pandemic started remains at 202, of which December and January accounted for 76 deaths each, the worst months to date.
The authorities in the north are now expected to have a hard time lifting the lockdown imposed on Nicosia and Kyrenia on 26 January, that included closing non-essential businesses and a 8 pm to 5 am curfew.
Turkish Cypriots crossing to work in the government-controlled areas will have to quarantine upon return as will those living in the government-controlled areas and working in the north.
People wanting to cross for medical reasons have to present a negative PCR test, while having to take another one on the seventh and fourteenth day since visiting the south.
Schools will remain closed from Wednesday to February 10, with lessons delivered online. Kindergartens and special education will be exempted.
More testing needed
Meanwhile, health experts in the north have been calling on authorities to increase testing, especially in the areas where clusters have formed.
Until recently, the north had been carrying out 1,000 to 2,000 tests a day, recently increasing them to 4,000. Tuesday’s record 62 cases were diagnosed from 4,016 tests with a positivity rate of 1.54%.
Turkish Cypriot health authorities have placed their hopes in COVID-19 vaccines from China with vaccinations launched on 15 January after 20,000 vaccines arrived from Turkey and 2,000 EU doses were handed by the Republic of Cyprus.
The north will be primarily using the Chinse vaccines made by Sinovac, a vaccine yet to be approved by the EU, but has been reported to have 78% efficacy against the coronavirus.
Turkish Cypriots expect 500,000 doses of the vaccine to be delivered.
It will also receive more vaccines from the EU, through the Republic of Cyprus.
Turkish Cypriots have so far reported 2,433 cases of COVID-19 and 14 deaths.
As of Tuesday, divided Cyprus had reported 33,557 cases and 216 deaths.