The number of COVID-19 patients needing hospitalisation has rocketed in the past 11 days, pushing the country’s health system towards a breaking point.
COVID patients in hospitals nearly doubled from 125 on 10 July to 243 on 21 July, a 94.3% spike that has led to routine operations being suspended.
Health authorities expect to see patient numbers grow as cases in recent days breached 1,000 as the fourth wave continues.
In comments to daily Phileleftheros, spokesperson for the health services organisation (OKYPY) Charalampos Charilaou said: “We see the numbers rising by the day, with admissions outnumbering releases, so we expect the next days will be very difficult”.
The number of patients is increasing by 11-12 a day, as on average, there are 36 admissions, while just 25 are discharged daily.
Cyprus’ health system is under pressure as COVID response plans provide beds for some 300 patients.
The previous record for COVID patients in hospitals was 301 recorded on 25 April, one day before the last national lockdown.
Charilaou said the fourth wave of infections, powered by the Delta variant, “is pushing the number of patients needing hospitalisation upwards, while patients are getting younger.
“At the moment, the average age of patients in hospitals is 53”.
When the British variant of the virus was the dominant strain in March and April, the average age of patients was 59-60; in December, the average was over 70.
Around 90% of COVID patients currently in hospitals are unvaccinated, while 5% are fully vaccinated.
“In order to deal with the situation, we have set up another COVID ward at Limassol General Hospital to meet growing needs.
“We have plans to open more COVID wards in other hospitals if the need arises,” Charilaou said.
According to Health Ministry data, updated on 20 July, out of the 230 patients in hospitals, 20 had a vaccination history, of which ten were fully vaccinated.
“That is why we are arguing that vaccination coverage needs to increase.
“We wish to emphasise that vaccinated people should continue to abide by health protocols and protective measures.
“Despite vaccinated people comprising a small percentage of hospitalisations, it is still evidence that vaccinated people can get infected and transmit the virus to an unvaccinated person or member of a vulnerable group,” said Charilaou.
Lead scientist advising the government on COVID-19, Dr Constantinos Tsioutis, said data indicates that the chances of a vaccinated person ending up in the hospital are one in 1,000.
“In the case of the unvaccinated, we see that ratio reduced to one in 75 is infected”.
“We never said the unvaccinated could not get infected.
“On the contrary, we have from the beginning been saying that vaccinated people still have to abide by health protocols and take protective measures,” said Tsioutis.
According to OKYPY data, 4,022 people were treated in a hospital up to 8 July, 402 in intensive care units.