COVID19: One year, two lockdowns, three vaccines

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On 9 March 2020, Cyprus reported its first two COVID-19 cases, with the World Health Organization declaring coronavirus a global pandemic two days later.

One year on, Cyprus is enduring a harsher second wave of the virus, hesitantly exiting a second national lockdown with total cases edging toward 40,000 while vaccination rollout is in a race against time.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou announced Cyprus first two coronavirus cases from just 50 samples tested.

They involved two Cypriot men – one aged 25 who had recently returned from a trip to Milan, Italy, and a 64-year-old doctor working at a state hospital in Nicosia who returned from the UK.

It was a year full of restrictions, health protocols, mass testing and in December, the vaccinations started.

On 11 March, four more cases were recorded. The Minister of Health issued his first decree forbidding gatherings of over 75 people in theatres, cinemas, restaurants, cafeterias, bars, ice cream parlours, and event halls until 31 March.

Meanwhile, the cases among medical staff increased.

On 13 March, President Nicos Anastasiades announced further measures at entry and crossing points in a televised national address, schools closed.

On 14 March, flight cancellations began, and from 16 March till 30 April, only people with a coronavirus- free medical certificate could enter the Republic. Passengers arriving at Larnaca and Paphos airports were quarantined for a fortnight.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued travel advice against all trips abroad.

Archbishop Chrysostomos II called on the faithful to avoid going to church until 10 April.

On 21 March, a decree issued by the Ministry of Transport came into effect, banning commercial flights to 9 June.

The first death of a coronavirus patient was recorded at the Paphos General Hospital. The patient, a 67-year-old British expat, had underlying health issues.

On 23 March, President Anastasiades announced a general lockdown from 24 March, which was lifted gradually from 4 May until early June when airports opened.

On 27 May, no cases were reported. The cases during the Summer months were zero or very few.

On 2 October, the Ministry of Health issued additional measures after cases were found among football players.

Resurgence and vaccines

Following a quiet summer, the virus’s resurgence was recorded in autumn, as cases had just hit 2,000 on 11 October.

On 22 October, the Cabinet increased measures and imposed local lockdowns on Limassol and Paphos after a spike in cases.

On 11 November, rapid tests were introduced.

On 30 November, an islandwide curfew introduced from 2100 till 0500 and imposed a 1900 closing time on restaurants and cafeterias.

Before Christmas (11 December), a ban was placed on shopping malls and department stores.

Cyprus saw its COVID-19 vaccination program rolled out on 26 December, while cases grew, putting a strain on its health system.

On 28 December, the Minister of Health said the health system was under tremendous pressure due to a large number of inpatients. On that day, a record number of 751 cases was announced.

On 29 December, the Ministry of Health issued a decree forbidding people in houses other than their permanent residents until 10 January 2021, except for New Year’s Eve, when only 10 persons from two families are allowed.

Working from home was imposed for the public sector and strongly advised for the private sector. A new record of 907 cases was announced.

On 31 December, a total of 125 people in Cyprus had died of coronavirus, while cases skyrocketed to 22,651.

COVID-19’s death toll reached its peak in December and January as they each saw 76 COVID-19 patients lose their lives to the disease.

A second national lockdown was imposed on 10 January.

With Cyprus on lockdown, coronavirus cases dropped below 100 in mid-February. Still, they slowly increased as measures were relaxed as of 1 February, with the first students going back to school and hairdressers opening on 8 February.

Cases spiked again on 11 March, with health authorities reporting another 431, the highest since the second lockdown implementation.

From 16 March, restaurants, bars and café’s will be able to serve seated customers but only in outdoor areas while the curfew will start at 11 pm, instead of 9 pm.

The SMS system remains in force, with people allowed to request to leave their homes two times a day.

Worried about pressure on the health system due to a spike in Limassol cases and prevalence of the potent UK variant, Cyprus took a more cautious approach than initially planned.

Cyprus’ inoculation programme picked up speed in March, with authorities vaccinating 10% of the population.

Cyprus relies on the three EU-approved vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford, with authorities having pre-ordered 4 million doses of vaccines, corresponding to 2 million people – twice its population.