COVID19: More measures, no lockdown after cases spike

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Under the shock of a record 1,925 COVID-19 cases, Cyprus is preparing to tighten measures to avoid another national lockdown.

Reportedly, a new lockdown is not yet on the table, but restrictions for everyone regardless of their vaccination status.

The explosion of cases came just two days after Christmas, verifying scientists fears that family get-togethers would propel infections.

The infection rate has also more than doubled above the average of around 0.6%.

From Monday’s 121,127 tests, 1925 cases were identified with a positivity rate of 1.59%.

Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas has called an emergency meeting with scientists to discuss more measures on Wednesday.

A tightening of measures should be expected after the New Year.

Among restrictions being assessed is limiting the movement of citizens, regardless of vaccination status, but without having to shut down the economy for the fourth time in the two years.

The number of people allowed at social gatherings will be reduced, while more employees will work remotely and testing for all staff regardless of vaccination status.

In comments to Kathimerini daily, Dr Peter Karayiannis laid out the options before authorities following the somewhat unexpected rise of cases, noting that a lockdown would be the way forward.

“I had predicted that by mid-January we would reach 1,500 – 2,000 cases, I was mistaken.

“Now that we have reached such a number earlier, we may well exceed 2,000 cases a day,” said virologist Peter Karayiannis.

“However, I do not think we should go to a lockdown, other restrictions may be imposed, or other measures are taken, such as increasing the percentage that will work through teleworking.”

Karayiannis noted that studies have shown that Omicron, although significantly more transmissible than previous variants of SARS-CoV-2, does not seem to cause severe illness.

He said authorities would wait to verify whether Omicron is behind the new wave of infections and if hospitalisations will increase.

“I hope the number of new cases will drop on Tuesday.

“We will not be taking measures based on Monday’s numbers alone; we will wait to see what the next couple of days bring and act accordingly.”

State hospitals are bracing for increased admissions despite Omicron not causing severe disease as previous variants such as Delta.

Currently, there are 161 hospital patients with COVID-19, 78 of whom are in serious condition, and 20 of them are intubated.

Over 80% of all COVID patients are unvaccinated.