COVID19: Alarm at cases surge, close contacts undeclared

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The government is concerned about increasing daily COVID-19 cases among younger people with a more active social life, while evidence suggests that infected Cypriots are not declaring their close contacts.

After reporting a series of clusters, the Health Ministry on Friday sounded the alarm on tougher days looming as cases have settled into triple digits over this week.

The Health Ministry attributed the rise to people no longer abiding by COVID protocols due to pandemic fatigue.

More than half of the cases in recent days involved people under 40.

The ministry added that many people who test positive fail to cooperate with the contact tracing team and do not declare their contacts.

Urging people to get a COVID-19 jab, the ministry said most new cases did not complete their vaccination.

According to contact tracing data, only 7% of cases were fully vaccinated, while 45% of those who tested positive belong to the 18 to 39 age group.

Health authorities have been urging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in a bid “to contain the rapid spread of the Delta variant which poses a double risk of transmission, infection and hospitalisation”.

Experts believe Cyprus is facing a fourth wave of coronavirus, driven by the more potent Indian variant spreading on the island.

Dr Leontios Kostrikis, a former member of the government’s COVID-19 team, said: “The fourth wave of infections is already underway, with the Indian variant of the virus displacing the formerly dominant British one”.

He argued it was the case for the previous three waves; the fourth wave is driven by a more potent variant that had displaced the previously dominant ones.

“However, the difference is that whereas during the previous waves, there was no immunity in the community from vaccines, this time around we have a good coverage, especially in the older age groups,” said Kostrikis.

Dr Maria Koliou, a government advisor on COVID-19, also said the vaccination rollout needs to be speeded up to reach more of the population and protect the community against the more aggressive Indian variant.

According to the latest available data, 63% of the eligible population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 45% have completed their vaccination.

Virologist Dr Petros Karayiannis says cases will continue in three digits and could go beyond 200.

He argues vaccinations should be extended to over 16s since 30% of the cases currently range in this age group.
“What is especially significant at the moment is to report contacts.

“We do not have the luxury to hide our contacts or not to reveal them for any reason and allow potentially positive cases to roam around until it is too late.”

He criticised individuals who fail to wear masks in indoor areas.

“We must all give a good example to avoid the situation worsening. Of course, hospitalisations will increase.”