Cyprus saw the new cases of COVID-19 catapult to 384 on Thursday, with the number of patients also rising dramatically to 101, as schools are seen as the main cause for the spread of the infection.
No deaths were reported, due mainly to the continued vaccinations of elderly and most vulnerable people, with the death toll since the pandemic started at 232, of whom 30 were in February and 76 each in December and January, the worst months to date.
The health ministry said that the 384 new cases of SARS-CoV-2, up from 323 the day before, were diagnosed from 39,807 PCR and rapid tests (positive rate of 0.96%), raising the total number of infections during the past 12 months to 36,004.
The 101 patients that are currently admitted in four state hospitals was an increase from the 89 on Wednesday and 79 on Tuesday. The number of critical cases remains unchanged at 22.
The new infections included 73 identified through contact tracing of known cases, four were passengers arriving at Larnaca and Paphos airports, and 254 were from antigen rapid tests conducted privately and as part of the free national testing programme.
Limassol once again topped the positive rapid test results with 121, followed by Nicosia (43), Larnaca (20), Paphos, 11 and Famagusta (9).
Some 641 tests in retirement homes were all negative, a trend that continues for several days, suggesting that restriction protocols are being respected.
Schools a major concern
That is not the case, however, in schools, with elementary pupils back in class this week, as well as the upper two classes of the Lyceum high schools who joined their graduating class schoolmates. Gymnasium (lower high school) students are expected back in class on March 16.
Some 7,576 tests were conducted by 27 mobile units visiting schools on Thursday, diagnosing 42 new coronavirus cases.
The Health Ministry plans to test all students weekly before they can begin lessons, but many parents disagree.
Following the return of lyceum and technical school students on Monday, the ministry issued a decree obliging all students aged over 12 to undergo a coronavirus test to be allowed back into classrooms.
It also “strongly advised” parents to encourage elementary pupils to wear masks at all times.
Various reports suggested that most of the clusters identified in several schools came about from children who do not respect health protocols, but also teachers who subsequently tested positive but had already infected front-row students.