Cyprus fears the Covid-19 variant behind the acceleration of India’s explosive outbreak is triggering a cases surge on the island, the health ministry said Thursday.
It said samples returned from the European Union indicate the Delta (Indian) variant of Covid-19 has spread in the community.
“The fact 143 samples taken 3-16 May, found two Indian variant cases (1.4%) and from 44 samples between 17-30 May, the Indian variant was detected in four cases (9.1%) shows an increase of the Indian variant in Cyprus,” a ministry statement said.
It said the Indian variant has already started affecting the country’s epidemiological indicators with an increase in cases and hospital patients aged under 40.
Daily reported cases soared in April to a record 941, fuelled by the more contagious British variant, but dropped below three digits following two weeks of tightened restrictions.
But on Wednesday, cases spiked to 167, their highest level since mid-May.
“The Delta variant is expected to dominate Europe by the end of August with increased transmission and serious illness, especially amongst younger people,” the ministry said.
“The only way to avert new aggressive variants and their spread is complete vaccination.”
Scientists say the Delta variant is more transmissible than other circulating variants; the European Union estimates it will represent 90 per cent of all SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating in the bloc by the end of August.
Variants are viewed as more dangerous because they are potentially more transmissible, deadly, or able to get past some vaccine protections.
Cyprus is speeding up its vaccination rollout, with 62% of adults having had at least one jab, with a target to reach 65% by July.
Over 44% are fully vaccinated, but this figure needs to increase.
The Republic of Cyprus has registered 73,999 cases of Covid-19 and 378 deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou commenting on the sharp spike in cases, said the increase is in line with what is happening across Europe.
He attributed the surge to the Delta variant in combination with the reopening of the economy and social activities and a sense of complacency amongst the public.
“State hospitals remain vigilant to deal with the increased number of cases that require hospitalisation, of which the vast majority (more than 90%) has not been vaccinated.
“A source of concern is the fact that in recent days there has been an increase in the hospitalisation of young people, who develop serious symptoms and need special treatment.”
He called on younger people to get vaccinated in a bid to raise a protective wall against the virus, reminding the public that the online vaccination portal is now catering to all ages over 18.
Despite the overall national vaccination rate edging towards the 65% target, younger people are not coming forward to get vaccinated.
Only 25.8% of 18–21-year-olds and 32.9% of 20–29-year-olds had received at least one jab.