COVID19: Scientists wary of rulebreakers

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Fearful of rulebreakers, scientists advising the government on the pandemic will continue monitoring Cyprus’ epidemiological situation this week before deciding whether to ease or tighten lockdown measures.

Health Ministry source confirmed that Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou would not be announcing anything following Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, as scientists have not tabled any suggestions.

Quoting a reliable source close to the committee of experts, the Cyprus News Agency reported that scientists appear to be encouraged by a recent stabilisation of cases in the 300 range but appear hesitant to propose any relaxations just yet.

On Monday, cases bounced back up to 410, indicating the current stability might be fragile.

Scientists are wary due to Limassol carnival celebrations, hospitality reopening outdoors, and the Green Monday holiday, when authorities relaxed the ban on mass gatherings for the day.

In comments to Alpha TV, Dr Peter Karayiannis, a government advisor, said that scientists are encouraged by a drop in the positivity rate of COVID-19 tests but confirmed they are concerned over mass gatherings to celebrate carnival time.

He noted that people attending these parties were not wearing face masks, arguing “this kind of behaviour could bring about a serious setback”.

Asked whether the COVID-19 situation allows for the further lifting of measures, Karayiannis replied that scientists want to hear the government’s view on the matter.

He believes there is room for minor relaxations for gyms and private tutoring classes, with more people allowed to be present.

Gyms and dance schools are allowed to facilitate two people if their facilities are 80 square metres, from 80-200 sqm three people are allowed over 200 sqm a maximum of five.

The trainer or teacher is included in the number of people allowed.

Music schools and private tutoring are allowed to resume but only with two people’s physical presence (one tutor and one student).

Karayiannis said relaxations for hospitality in the current phase could only mean allowing more people in outdoor facilities.

There is still no decision on when Gymnasium students can return to their classrooms.

Cyprus reported on Monday the death of 2 people from COVID-19 and 410 new cases, bringing cases to 42,628 and 245 deaths.

The positivity rate stands at 0.95%, and 217 people are receiving treatment in state hospitals.