A municipal worker disinfects the area near St Lazarus church in Larnaca

COVID19: Cyprus cases surge past 900 again on eve of lockdown decisions

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Cyprus saw the number of confirmed coronavirus cases surge past 900 again for the second time in a week, rising to 927 on Thursday and closing in on the record 941 cases on Tuesday, as the government ponders whether to introduce stricter measures in order to contain the spread of the virus.

When 907 COVID-19 infections were diagnosed on December 29, the government announced a second lockdown a few days later with most of the retail sector, offices, schools and government services closed for weeks on end.

The Cabinet will meet on Friday morning with the Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou and the government’s medical advisors pushing for a quick burst of harsher lockdown measures, while President Nicos Anastasiades fearing a public backlash, will want to keep current rules in place, a week before the Greek Orthodox Easter on May 2.

The health ministry said in its daily Covid bulletin that one person died, a 68 year old man who had received the first of two vaccination doses.

This raised the death toll for April to 40 and to 296 since the pandemic started.

On the other hand, the number of patients admitted for treatment at state hospitals rose to 296, with 74 in a critical state, up from 291 and 71, respectively, the day before.

With the hospitalisations nearing the health system’s critical 300-bed capacity, the state hospitals’ authority is considering activating the next stage in its services to accommodate 400 patients.

The health ministry added that 55,566 PCR and rapid tests were conducted on Thursday, which, based on the 927 new cases of SARS-CoV-2, raised the test positivity rate to 1.67%, above Wednesday’s 1.59% and Tuesday’s 1.66%.

To date, Cyprus has recorded 59,792 cases of SARS-CoV-2.

The day’s test results identified 124 new coronavirus cases through contact tracing linked to earlier infections, one passenger tested positive among 1,225 arrivals at Larnaca and Paphos airports, and 239 were diagnosed from tests at private labs and hospitals.

A further 563 new cases were discovered from the national programme of antigen rapid tests, of which 216 were in Nicosia (1.50% test positivity rate), 111 in Larnaca (1.87%), 93 in Limassol (1.03%), 36 in Paphos (1.00%), and 31 in Famagusta district (1.61%).

Most targeted testing groups recorded low rates, the exception once again being high school students, where 35 out of 9,182 samples tested positive.


Positivity rate among lowest in Europe

Meanwhile, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Transport, and the junior minister for tourism, sent a letter addressed to international partners, mainly in the tourism and airline sectors, updating them on progress in vaccination rates and general containment of the virus.

“Cyprus has managed one of the fastest vaccination drives in the EU, and aspires to vaccinate 60% of its population by the end of June. Such is our progress, that persons as young as 40 years old will be given the option of vaccination in the first few weeks of May,” they three officials said.

However, this refers to only the first of two doses, with medical advisors suggesting that Cyprus needs to reach a 30-35% rate of both vaccinations, from the present 5%, in order to reduce transmission risks.

The three officials – Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides, Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos and Tourism Deputy Minister Savvas Perdios – added in their joint letter that Cyprus was pushing ahead with mass national testing with about 406,000 people tested in the week of April 12 to 18, or 46% of the entire population.

“Although, the number of confirmed cases may seem relatively high, the positivity rate is actually among the lowest in Europe. Out of all the people tested, only 1% were found to be carriers of the disease.”

“By comparison, most countries in the EU show a positivity rate ranging from 3% to 15%, and in some cases even higher than that,” they concluded.