Cyprus authorities are on alert for the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, assuring the public that the situation is being monitored with no cases being found yet.
Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas, and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Christina Yiannaki, met with the management of the State Health Services Organization (SHSO) and the directors of General Hospitals to assess the situation.
Hadjipantelas said they decided to move some patients from public hospitals to the private sector if there is a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations to cope.
Asked about the new variant and whether the booster shot is protective enough, he said there is a higher need for the third dose.
“The booster shot does not offer 100% protection, but its 70-80% effectiveness is very important.”
The minister said it is even more imperative to wear a face mask.
A new Covid-19 variant first identified in southern Africa was named Omicron by the World Health Organization (WHO) and declared it a “variant of concern”.
It carries a high number of mutations on its spike protein linked with increased transmissibility, which may decrease the effectiveness of measures such as vaccinations and treatments.
On 26 November, Cyprus banned the entry to arrivals from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and Botswana due to the new coronavirus variant.
Cypriots who have visited these countries will be placed in isolation for approximately 10 days upon their arrival to Cyprus.
Strict checks will occur at the airports for arrivals from countries such as Israel and the UK, where Omicron has been detected.
Asked about the protests by some parents against the new measures, the minister said clusters were detected in schools.
“Either we use face masks in schools or shut down schools, and the government chose the first option as this is the right way to go.”
He said the number of people fully vaccinated who lost their lives without having other underlying health conditions is “very small”.
Hadjipantelas said the test results for 11 people arriving from African countries are negative, but a second check will be done for confirmation.
Yiannaki said that vaccinations have increased in the 12-19 age group.
“More walk-in centres will operate over the next days in various villages, and the aim is to reach 83% in of fully vaccinated adults.”