Cyprus is heading for a new record of COVID-19 cases, as experts fear daily infections will reach a thousand, shattering the previous record of 941, which triggered a two-week lockdown in late April.
In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, a government advisor on the coronavirus outbreak, virologist Dr Peter Karayiannis said that “Monday’s 787 cases reveal the virus is spreading rapidly”.
“It is not impossible to see a thousand daily cases with the way things are turning out. The situation is really bad,” warned Karayiannis.
Given its speed, the virologist attributed the new outbreak to the more contagious Delta variant, mainly affecting the unvaccinated population and Cypriot complacency.
“We are 160 cases away from the number that led us to take strict measures last time…but things are different now as the vaccination coverage is higher.”
Karayiannis said Health Ministry data shows most recently infected people were under 40, and at least 55% of new cases were detected among people under 25.
“Even though younger people do get infected, and some do end up in the hospital, the worst effects of the virus will not be as apparent as they were when the elderly were the most vulnerable group.”
He said that younger people not falling seriously ill helps the virus creep into older age groups.
“Some infected individuals could come in contact with older people who haven’t yet been vaccinated.”
Karayiannis said hospital admissions have already started increasing, and he expects them to continue to rise.
Because mostly younger people are being admitted, hospitalisations and deaths are lower than during previous virus waves.
Karayiannis said stricter measures had brought previous outbreaks under control, but the low number of hospitalisations allows for some breathing space and time to try other methods.
“Everything will depend on the number of hospital admissions.
“The situation in hospitals is manageable so far, which gives the government some time to deliberate on its next moves while monitoring the epidemiological situation.”
He was unsure what kind of measures would work during the tourist season since they would effectively close the sector for the season.
Karayiannis repeated calls for people to get vaccinated to bring down cases, stop new variants and hospital admissions.
“Observing the transmission chains, it is obvious they originate in places where people gather, ignoring personal protection measures and health protocols”.
He said hope lies with authorities reaching their goal to vaccinate 80% of the population by September.
“If we don’t, then we are in for a serious problem. Things are clear.”