Turkish Cypriot authorities are on alert after discovering the UK variant of coronavirus in the Turkish occupied north, as 16 out of 20 COVID-19 positive samples submitted for further testing were found to have it.
Deeply concerned over the discovery, Ali Pilli, head of the health authorities said that experts predict cases and hospitalisations will increase by mid-February as a result of the new strain found among the community.
He said at least 16 people have contracted the potent UK variant of coronavirus in the north.
“It is extremely important that the public adheres to the rules of mask-wearing, social distancing and hygiene”, Pilli said while stressing the variant is more infectious.
He said that authorities are worried as they expect to see the number of deaths increase, as the UK variant is 30 times deadlier than other strains of the virus.
The COVID-19 caseload in the north is nearly 3,000.
Last week Turkish Cypriot authorities reported two more deaths taking COVID-19 related loses to 16.
In February so far, the Turkish Cypriot community has reported near 600 cases closing in on January’s record of 751.
The north is currently under a strict lockdown since 5 February, with Turkish Cypriots not allowed to leave their homes during an 8 pm to 5 am curfew while travel between districts is prohibited.
Measures are to last until 15 February with all non-essential businesses instructed to close while banks shut from 8 -12 February.
Essential businesses like supermarkets and petrol stations can remain open until 5 pm while on Sundays all businesses must close except for pharmacists.
Restaurants and other hospitality venues have had to close entirely with no takeaway or delivery service allowed.
The Republic of Cyprus has reported 31,864 cases and 214 deaths.
So far, divided Cyprus has confirmed over 34,700 infections and 230 deaths.