COVID19: Government tough love for the unjabbed

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The Cabinet convenes Friday to decide on how to encourage younger people to get a COVID-19 jab as a new outbreak is spreading among those who are unvaccinated.

A new COVID-19 wave is driven by the Delta variant, where most cases are unvaccinated.

Scientists sounded the alarm as Cyprus’ epidemiological picture has worsened in the past ten days, going from double-digit numbers to cases peaking at 473 on Thursday (positivity rate 1.27%).

The spike in cases has pushed Cyprus into the European Centre for Disease Control high-risk red category.

A prominent scientist advising the government, virologist Dr Peter Karayiannis expects cases to rise even further in the coming days.

Dr Karayiannis argues that Cyprus will need to vaccinate 80% of its population to create an immunity wall against the Delta variant.

Proposals tabled before the government include a carrot and stick approach offering incentives to people who have not yet been vaccinated while reinstating several restrictions for unvaccinated citizens.

Official leaks have the government contemplating using a Safe Pass for outdoor facilities such as restaurants, nightclubs, and cafes.

This would mean that going to a restaurant requires a vaccination certificate, a negative rapid or PCR test not older than 72 hours, or proof of recovering from the virus in the past six months.

The government will give additional leave to army recruits who get vaccinated while encouraging businesses to give time off to staff to get the jab and recover from any side effects.

It is also looking at increasing the ceiling on capacity used by venues such as stadia, cinemas, theatres beyond the current 50% limit and the extra space allocated to vaccinated people.

On the other hand, authorities will reduce free testing for unvaccinated people, introduce a cap on tests, or stop them.

The Cabinet is expected to applaud the Bank of Cyprus’ move to request two rapid tests a week from unvaccinated staff.

The government will meet employers’ associations to discuss whether BoC’s measure could apply to other businesses.

According to Health Ministry data, 64.6% of the eligible population has received at least one jab of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 50.2% completing their vaccination.

Just 28.5% of people aged 18-19 have had a jab; for those aged 20 to 29, it’s 36.5%, and 30 to 39, it’s 53.5%.

Jab coverage rises with age; those aged 40-49, 50-59 and 60-69 have vaccination rates of 73.4%, 72.3% and 82.2%, respectively.