COVID19: Cyprus cases stubbornly above 300

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New coronavirus cases remained stubbornly above 300 on Wednesday, peaking at 323, a number not seen in nearly a month and a half as the country saw further lockdown restrictions lifted this week.

The health ministry said that patient numbers also rose to 89 from 79 the day before, but no one died of COVID-19, maintaining the death toll since the pandemic started at 232.

The 323 new cases, up from 302 on Monday and 288 on Tuesday, is near the 337 reported on January 9, the day before the last lockdown was imposed, shutting down all retail stores, business, schools and government offices, in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

Cyprus reached a record on December 29, topping 907 cases of SARS-CoV-2, with that number subsequently subsiding to below 200 daily by the end of January.

However, December and January were also the deadliest on record, with 76 deaths each, dropping to 30 in February.

With 33,194 PCR and antigen rapid tests conducted on Wednesday, the health ministry said that the positive test rate rose to 0.97% from Monday’s 0.79%, with the total number of all infections in the past 12 months now at 35,620.

Daily testing increased after the government relaxed lockdown measures and allowed the gradual return of people to work, in private businesses or in the government.

Only elementary school pupils and high school graduating students returned to their classes by mid-February, a measure that will allow the rest of the students back in school by March 16. However, all teachers have to test on a weekly basis and students must also produce a negative result to return to class.

The health ministry said that of the 89 patients that have been admitted to four state hospitals, 22 are critical, unchanged from Tuesday.

Some 751 samples were collected through the contact tracing programme with 95 positive cases diagnosed.

A further 190 infections were discovered through private and the free national rapid test programme, with more than half, or 98 new cases, in Limassol. Nicosia had 41, Larnaca had 20, Paphos had 11 and four in Famagusta.

Just one of 359 samples from residents and staff at retirement homes was positive, as were 3 cases from 961 samples from workers in two industrial zones, two from 917 samples among soldiers serving in the National Guard and four positive cases from 1,169 samples among students and staff at schools.

A further 295 samples from passengers arriving at Larnaca and Paphos airports all tested negative.


Prospects for tourism

On Monday, Cyprus opened the airports to 56 markets, separated in colour-coded categories according to their risk levels, which will remain in place until the end of March.

Under the new COVID assessment scheme, low-risk countries currently classified in the safest ‘Green’ category are Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Saudi Arabia.

Passengers arriving from these countries do not require to self-isolate or carry a negative coronavirus test. They will be asked to undergo a PCR lab test upon arrival in Cyprus, the cost of which will be covered by the Republic.

These measures will probably be relaxed as of April to encourage the return of more tourists, with arrivals presenting proof of vaccination allowed in without going into quarantine.

Royal Caribbean’s newest jewel, Odyssey of the Seas, includes Cyprus in its maiden voyage, docking in Limassol about 15 times from June to August, carrying only vaccinated Israeli passengers and crew.

It is the first time a fully-vaccinated vessel will arrive in Cyprus as the island struggles to revive its tourism industry, with Israel its third-biggest market.

Only Israeli citizens will be accepted; all guests and crew above the age of 16 must be vaccinated to sail. Tickets will go on sale on March 9.