Cyprus saw a surge in new coronavirus cases to 199 on Thursday, with no deaths and the number of patients remaining stable, as the health minister announced a relaxation of most lockdown measures from Monday.
The health ministry said that the new cases raised the total infections since the pandemic started to 33,909.
After two weeks of near-100 daily cases, Wednesday saw 143 new SARS-CoV-2 infections, following Tuesday’s rise to 176, a 5-week high.
The government is relaxing lockdown measures imposed on January 10 after daily infections peaked at 907 on December 29.
Health minister Constantinos Ioannou announced earlier in the day that almost all students would return to their classes on March 1, with the first and second year students of the upper Lyceums back in school a week later on March 8.
Gyms and dance schools will also be allowed to operate indoors, together with more sports activities, while cafés, bars and restaurants will probably re-open on March 16.
After several days of one or no deaths, no people were reported to have died of COVID-19 on Thursday.
An elderly woman, aged 86, with underlying health issues, died on Wednesday, raising the death toll since the pandemic started to 231 and the total for February to 30.
December and January remained the deadliest months on record with 76 each. Of these, 154 were men (67%) and 77 women, with an average age of 79 years.
Patient numbers steady, less critical
The ministry said that 82 patients are currently being treated for the coronavirus, one more than the day before, of whom 19 are critical, significantly less than the 25 on Wednesday.
Some 28,461 tests were conducted on Thursday, diagnosing 199 new coronavirus cases. Of these, 64 were positive results from 429 contact tracing samples, while 102 were identified from private and the free national rapid testing programme.
Once again, Limassol accounted for nearly two thirds of all positive rapid test results, with 62, followed by 20 in Nicosia, 12 in Larnaca, 3 in Paphos and 1 in Famagusta.
A total 816 samples from workers and residents at retirement homes were all negative for COVID-19, as were 291 tests of passengers arriving at Larnaca and Paphos airports.
A further 88 passengers who had arrived from the U.K. all tested negative on the seventh day of quarantine in local hotels and were released, to continue home for a few more days of self-isolation.