Scientists see no reason to ease COVID-19 measures before Easter Sunday on 2 May, as Cyprus’ current epidemiological picture and public reluctance to get vaccinated make it almost impossible.
Experts advising the government on handling the coronavirus outbreak are more concerned over the high number of hospitalisations.
The number of COVID-19 patients currently being treated in state hospitals was a record 225 on Monday, with 56 in a serious condition.
In comments to Stockwatch, virologist and government advisor Dr Peter Karayiannis said: “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 ICU’s.
“We have an increased number of cases daily resulting in higher hospital admissions, which makes us concerned over how much pressure intensive care units can take,” said Karayiannis.
He attributed the high number of cases to the prevalence of the virus’s UK variant, which is 50% more contagious.
Cyprus has been reporting an average of 500 cases over the past week, with 528 infections reported on Monday.
A 62-year-old man also died with underlying health conditions; he had not been vaccinated.
Karayiannis called on the public to put aside their concerns over vaccines, especially AstraZeneca, which has been linked to very rare brain blood clots.
Stressing that just 4 cases of blood clotting incidents have been found for every 1 million people vaccinated, Karayiannis argued the risks of not getting vaccinated outweigh those of the jab.
“If 1 million people choose not to get vaccinated in a country with high transmission, then this would translate into 160,000 infections and around 1,500 deaths.”
Dr Maria Koliou, Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Cyprus and advisor to the government, said if infections are not brought under control, easing measures would be difficult.
Koliou did note that some relaxations could be introduced, in line with measures already in effect.
She argued that hotels could open for Cypriots and residents: “The advisory team considers it reasonable to lift this ban.
“As hotels are already open to foreigners, it would only be reasonable to allow Cypriots to stay at hotels too”.
The advisory team convenes on Tuesday for a preliminary discussion over a roadmap to lifting measures in the future.
Reportedly, scientists will discuss church service measures during the Greek Orthodox Holy Week while also revisiting quarantine regulations for close contacts.
Quarantine time could be reduced from two weeks to just one, provided the contact tests negative after seven days.