COVID19: UK variant rampant in Cyprus

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The more potent ‘UK variant’ of coronavirus is more widespread than ever in Cyprus, with all 45 positive samples sent to the EU infected with it, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Thursday.

After a meeting with the state health organisation’s management, Ioannou said the British strain (Lineage B.1.1.7, also known as 20I/501Y.V1) was traced in all 45 samples sent to the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

The infection rate is four times higher than the samples sent for testing to the ECDC last week, where the British strain was traced in only 25.7% of the 208 Covid-positive samples.

“This is extremely worrying because although it is a small sample when the UK variant is found in all 45 samples, this shows there is a wider spread of this strain in the community,” Ioannou said.

“I remind you that this has a higher transmission rate, which also explains the increase in the positivity rate among daily cases.

“In all of December, we had the same number of hospital admissions as in the past week. This shows the transmission rate has widely increased, as has the hospitalisation of cases (positive with SARS-CoV-2).

“We need to be even more careful in our contacts and take extra care when keeping individual health measures because it (the UK strain) is extremely dangerous.”

“These measures are effective as long as we all cooperate,” the minister said.

No need to increase beds

Asked about the possibility of increasing the health system’s capacity to beyond 400 beds, up from 250 until recently, Ioannou said the problem does not lie with the capacity, beds, and equipment, as much as the healthcare workers.

“It’s not just a shortage of nurses, but also doctors of various specialities.”

The minister said cooperation with the private sector is not to increase bed capacity for Covid treatment but to refer non-Covid patients.

Paphos General hospital’s COVID ward will be operational by Saturday.

It follows the addition of a special ward at Larnaca General hospital, complementing the dedicated Covid-clinic at Famagusta, and the special wards at Limassol’s general hospital, Nicosia, and Makarios maternity hospital in Nicosia.

Despite the surge in hospital admissions in Limassol and the new daily cases, half of which are in the port town, Ioannou said new measures such as a targeted lockdown for Limassol is not on the table at the moment.