A more potent UK coronavirus strain is widespread in Cyprus and behind a surge in cases in recent days, especially in Limassol, which has delayed easing more lockdown measures.
According to special tests performed on positive samples sent to the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), the more potent UK variant was found in 25.7% of samples sent by Cyprus health authorities.
On Thursday, the Health Ministry confirmed the British strain was detected in 56 cases from an additional 208 positive samples in which the sequencing was successfully performed.
In total, sequencing by the ECDC has been completed for 338 samples, and the British strain was identified in 87 cases.
These were positive samples taken during January-February.
“It would appear the new, more contagious mutation of the virus exists in the community, causing a large spread of the disease and an increase in cases and hospitalisations,” said the Health Ministry’s announcement.
It added that 70% of the patients are from the Limassol district, “where there is a greater epidemiological burden.”
According to an ECDC report, the British variant is over 50% more contagious. Simultaneously, a UK study published this week showed that it is 64% more deadly than pre-existing strains affecting younger people and leading to an increase in hospital admissions.
Hospital admissions in Cyprus have skyrocketed within a fortnight, going from 78 on 27 February to 165 on Wednesday, with health authorities confirming the median age of patients has significantly dropped.
On Thursday, the medical director of Famagusta General – the COVID referral hospital – Amalia Hadjiyianni said the youngest person being treated was 28 and the oldest 70.
“The only weapon for protecting our health is the observance of the basic measures of social distancing, personal hygiene and reduction of social contacts,” said the ministry.
“Proper use of face masks and careful socialising can save our lives and lead to a safe, gradual return to normalcy and contribute to a faster restart of the economy in the near future,” it added.