Cyprus reported an increase in new coronavirus cases to 619 and Covid hospitalisations to 228 on Tuesday, with health officials warning there will be no easing of lockdown measures before the Greek Orthodox Easter.
This nears the 622 new cases diagnosed last Thursday, with a 3-month high of 705 recorded a week before that.
The health ministry said in its daily bulletin that one person died of COVID-19, a 69 year old man with underlying health issues who had not been vaccinated.
This raised the April death toll to 18 and to 274 since the pandemic started. At this rate, the monthly figure could catch up with the 30 reported in March.
Covid hospitalisations also increased with a record 228 patients who had infected with SARS-CoV-2 being treated at special wards in six state hospitals. This is up from the 225 during the past two days.
Of these, 63 patients were in a critical state, up from 56 on Monday and 57 on Sunday.
The health ministry added that 51,256 PCR and antigen rapid tests were conducted, of which 45,718 were part of the free national rapid testing programme.
With 619 new cases, a significant increase from the 528 on Monday and 470 on Sunday, the benchmark test positivity rate jumped to 1.21%, significantly higher than the 0.91% on Monday, having spiked to 1.31% earlier last week.
This raised the total number of infections during the past 13 months to 52,652.
Some 114 of the new infections were identified through contact tracing, three tested positive from among 1,182 passengers arriving at Larnaca and Paphos airports, and 163 were diagnosed from from private lab tests and at hospitals.
A further 339 tested positive from the rapid tests, of which 94 were in Nicosia (0.68% positivity rate), 85 in Limassol (0.98%), 66 in Larnaca (1.66%), 16 in Paphos (0.50%) and 12 in Famagusta district 0.70%).
Just two people tested positive from 764 samples at retirement homes, and 33 were diagnosed with COVID-19 from 9,701 tests in schools.
Public reluctance to get vaccinated
Earlier on Tuesday, experts advising the government on handling the coronavirus outbreak said there was no reason to ease COVID-19 measures before Easter Sunday on May 2, as public reluctance to get vaccinated make it almost impossible.
They said they are more concerned over the high number of hospitalisations, rising to a record 228 on Tuesday from 225 on Monday.
Virologist and government advisor Dr Peter Karayiannis was quoted as saying: “It is too early to talk about new relaxations for Easter because the constant ups and downs of cases do not allow us to draw safe conclusions.”
He said the high number of daily cases puts more pressure on hospitals and their intensive care units which are nearing capacity.
Karayiannis attributed the high number of cases to the prevalence of the UK variant, which is 50% more contagious.