COVID19: Call for ‘safe pass’ outdoors amid cases surge

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Outgoing Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou proposes the ‘safe pass’ be re-introduced in open space public gatherings, including restaurants and clubs after a surge in coronavirus infections, increased five-fold.

Daily coronavirus cases surged to a three-month high of 314 on Monday, up from 216 the previous day, as health officials fear complacency, especially among young people, is the main culprit.

The safe pass is issued to those who have completed their vaccination cycle or have passed a PCR test, or fully recovered from COVID-19.

The Health Ministry’s contact tracing team said 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported during the past week, with 20 clusters mainly in the Famagusta area and four nightclubs in the popular holiday resorts of Ayia Napa and Protaras.

New clusters were also traced among young teens and graduation parties, as under-40s are snubbing the national vaccination programme.

President Nicos Anastasiades chaired an emergency meeting involving ministers and COVID scientific advisors late on Monday.

Afterwards, he said the only way to combat the spread of the virus, especially the highly potent Indian ‘Delta strain’, is to get vaccinated.

“It is unacceptable that 70% of the under-40s have not or refuse to be inoculated, accounting for 90% of hospitalisations,” Anastasiades said.

“It is our patriotic duty to protect the national health and subsequently the economy,” Anastasiades said after the 90-minute meeting at the Presidential Palace.

He said the scientists do not determine government policy, which will be decided at the next Cabinet meeting.

“There is a surge, and the danger comes mainly from the Delta variant of the virus.

“What is needed, and what everyone has to realise, is the inoculation programme.”

Nearly 65% of the adult population received their first jab, and over 40% are fully vaccinated.

Anastasiades said the government does not want to introduce new measures and restriction, “as the people have made many sacrifices, and many are suffering on the economic side.”

The government is also considering announcing incentives to encourage young people, especially those under 40 who are more vulnerable to the potent Indian strain, to vaccinate.

Authorities have also decided to vaccinate 16- and 17-year-olds.

Ioannou steps down on Thursday and will be replaced, amid the worst health crisis of the century, by chartered accountant Michalis Hadjipantelas.

Hadjipantelas is CEO of the auditing firm HMI & Partners Ltd and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

He was vice-president of the Cyprus Electricity Authority (EAC), chairman of the board of Nicosia Mall and was also the chairman of Anorthosis FC in 2013.

Hadjipantelas was not the President’s first choice.

Anastasiades had offered the position to introduce a wider-appeal administration to former House Speaker and AKEL MP Adamos Adamou, who declined at the last moment after pressure from his party.