COVID19: Cyprus on verge of third wave with 303 cases, 1 death, admissions up

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Cyprus could be facing its third wave of the coronavirus pandemic as new cases surged past the 300 barrier again and hospital admissions were up on Sunday, with officials pondering delaying the next relaxation of lockdown measures.

The health ministry said that one person died and 303 new cases of SARS-CoV-2 were diagnosed from 46,544 tests, raising the total of all infections since the pandemic started to 36,878.

From the record 907 cases of COVID-19 on December 29, the number of daily infections tapered off to the 100-200 range during most of February. But in the past week, it surged again, having lifted restrictions in the retail sector and allowing upper high school students to return to their classes.

On Thursday, new cases soared to 384, a figure not seen since early January. On Friday the number dropped to 273 and rose again to 298 on Saturday.

On Sunday, the total patients admitted in state hospitals also rose to 129 of whom 25 are critical. That number broke past the 100-marker on Thursday to 101, rising further to 111 on Friday and 126 on Saturday.

The death of an 89 year old man, directly attributed to COVID-19, rose the death toll to 233 after a three-day lull of no deaths.

February had 30 deaths attributed directly to COVID-19, while December and January were the worst months on record, with 76 deaths each.

So far, 156 men (67%) have died and 77 women, with an average age of 79 years.

The government’s scientific advisors had suggested that the final lockdown restrictions remain in place until March 16, maintaining the curfew measures the days before to contain the spread of the virus during the annual carnival parade on March 14.

The aim was also to avoid public gatherings on the Green Monday, the first day of lent when the entire population celebrates the feast and charges towards restaurants serving fish and vegetarian menus.

However, with the spread of the virus remaining out of control, it is highly unlikely that bars, cafés and restaurants will be allowed to reopen and gymnasium students of the lower high schools may continue their lessons online.

With public school teachers obliged to test on a weekly basis, some 46,544 PCR and antigen rapid tests were conducted on Sunday, following Friday’s record 57,926 and up from 45,369 tests on Saturday.

Of these, 104 were diagnosed through contact tracing of known earlier infections, 14 were from other tests at private labs and state hospitals, while 185 were identified from the private sector rapid tests and the free national testing programme.

Limassol remains in the lead with most infections discovered through the rapid tests, with 106 positive results, followed by Nicosia (48), Larnaca (19), Paphos (9) and Famagusta (1).


Vaccinations pass 100,000 mark, but ‘not enough’

However, officials were mildly optimistic the day before when they announced that the pace of vaccinations had reached 100,000 or just over 10% of the population.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou announced on Saturday that Cyprus is close to reaching 100,000 inoculations as the vaccine rollout accelerates.

“The vaccination programme is accelerating every week. There is a possibility that we will exceed our current schedule.”

According to the Ministry of Health, 98,000 vaccinations were administered by Friday afternoon, and this was surpassed on Saturday.

Cyprus is currently third in vaccinations in the EU, but health authorities have come under fire for not exhausting possibilities of acquiring more vaccines outside Brussels’ centralised purchasing system.

It is way behind neighbouring Israel, which has vaccinated almost 90% of its population and the UK’s 27%.

A health expert told the Financial Mirror that Cyprus is taking too long to implement its vaccination program and is in danger of losing out on the advantage mass inoculation offers in combating a pandemic.