The more transmissible Coronavirus variant Omicron could push Cyprus’ daily COVID-19 cases up to 2,000, said epidemiologist Dr Michalis Voniatis.
In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, Voniatis said the rise in infections over the past ten days, close to 900, appears to be linked to Omicron.
He noted that the verdict is still out on the link between an increase of cases and the arrival of Omicron, as scientists are waiting for the sequencing results of some 100 cases to have a clearer picture.
Voniatis did say that finding 33 confirmed cases of Omicron does not leave room to doubt; it is rapidly spreading in the community.
“The key question is the severity of Omicron, but regardless of whether it is milder compared to Delta, people must get tested, especially before attending Christmas gatherings.
“We will see a rise in infections, but the question is how many of those will require treatment.
“Unfortunately, we’ve witnessed illness even among the vaccinated.”
He urged people to get a booster shot, citing studies that showed a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine bolsters the immune system against Omicron.
As for the potential severity of Omicron, Voniatis said the indications so far are that fewer people get seriously ill, but real-world data is still pending.
A study in South Africa found that the risk of hospitalisation from Omicron was roughly 80% lower than that of the Delta variant.
For those who end up in hospital, the risk of severe disease was roughly 30% lower.
Another research published by London’s Imperial College on Wednesday said the risk of needing to stay in hospital for patients with Omicron is 40 to 45% lower than patients with the Delta variant.
The epidemiologist in November had suggested that if Omicron proved to cause milder disease, it could well bring about the end of the pandemic.
“What seems to be rather certain is that it is transmitted much more easily, and this is worrying because it will spread to all countries,” Voniatis said.
On Thursday, Cyprus reported 883 cases and one death, taking the total to 147,685 COVID-19 cases and 624 deaths.
The daily high for infections was 1,152 in mid-July.