COVID19:  Restrictions remain as fourth wave subsides

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Although the record spike in coronavirus infections has subsided, Cyprus Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas on Thursday said the government would not loosen restrictions in place such as the Safe Pass.

In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, Hadjipantelas said it was difficult to relax the measures, as “no one can foresee what will happen in the next two to three months”.

Experts estimate that Cyprus has passed the peak of the fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, cautioning that the island could be in for a fifth surge if measures are not observed.

Cases surged in July with a record 1,152 daily infections but numbers are now in the low hundreds.

“At the moment, imposing a new lockdown is not on the table. However, no one can predict what will happen in the next two to three months,” said the minister.

“We will look at everything once the time comes; at the moment, for the next month, a lockdown is out of the question”.

Booster shots

The minister said that health authorities are to proceed with the rollout of booster shots but are mulling over whether to wait for the green light from the EMA or not.

The cabinet has instructed the scientists advising the government on coronavirus to deliver their recommendations by the end of the week.

However, the matter has proved tricky, as Cyprus typically follows EMA (European Medical Agency) guidelines, and the organisation has not decided on whether nations should proceed with booster shots.

Government advisors have been asked to give feedback on vaccines’ “mixing and matching” as only mRNA jabs will be used for booster doses.

Scientists advising the government have urged the state to make decisions independently of the EMA, as any delays could cost lives.

They argued that booster shots are necessary due to the weakening of protection over time (immuno-ageing) against serious illness and death, reduced protection against mutations and insufficient protection for certain vulnerable groups.

Researchers in the UK have found that protection against COVID-19 offered by two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines begins to fade within six months, underscoring the need for booster shots.

According to the findings, after five to six months, the effectiveness of the Pfizer jab at preventing COVID-19 infection in the month after the second dose fell from 88% to 74%.

For the AstraZeneca vaccine, effectiveness fell from 77% to 67% after four to five months.

Scientists carrying out the study said that protection could fall below 50% for older people and healthcare workers under the worst-case scenario by the winter.

The matter is further complicated by the World Health Organisation calling on nations to hold off on booster shots, citing the gap in initial vaccinations in poorer countries and richer developed countries.