COVID19: Restrictions on social gatherings loom

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Cyprus is expected to tighten COVID-19 measures amid an Omicron surge, just days after introducing new rules, with further restrictions on social gatherings and nightclubs.

President Nicos Anastasiades has called a meeting of government scientists on Tuesday at 6.30 pm to mull extra measures to blunt a COVID-19 spike that is the worst recorded globally.

Any proposals tabled will be ratified by a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas, Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou and Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides will also be attending the meeting with President Anastasiades.

Earlier on Tuesday, scientists met with Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas to go through measures necessary to contain the virus.

With the daily infection rate skyrocketing, forcing thousands of people to self-isolate, it is expected that experts will recommend tighter controls on gatherings; a lockdown does not appear to be among the options.

Limiting social gatherings and closing nightclubs top the list of suggestions to be tabled before the cabinet on Wednesday.

Some scientists suggest that nightclubs close for two to four weeks, while other experts argue that closing at midnight and a ceiling on guests would suffice to limit contacts.

Dancing is banned at nightclubs which had club owners up in arms requesting that the state compensate them for the loss of revenue, especially losses made on New Year’s Eve.

Recent findings, however, have implicated nightclubs in several clusters, with data also showing that one-third of infections involve people aged 18 to 30.

Some 6,808 out of 16,530 cases reported for the five days between Christmas Day to New Year’s Eve involved people between 18 and 30.

Home visits are also expected to be limited to ten people at a time, down from the ceiling of 20, while attendance at churches, weddings and christenings will also be curbed.

The number of people allowed at a social event such as weddings is expected to be reduced further from the 300-limit set last week.

Scientists are also concerned about religious events to celebrate the Epiphany holiday on 6 January.

Events include the blessing of water, which attracts mass crowds gathering at dams and piers.

Health experts and authorities will be looking into whether schools can open on 10 January as decided last month, or if students will be given an extra week off in the hope the situation will improve.

The majority of scientists and the Education Ministry do not seem to be on board with delaying the opening of schools.

According to Agence France Presse data, Cyprus recorded the world’s highest covid incidence rate of cases over the last seven days, with 2,505 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

On Monday, Cyprus reported 5,024 cases, breaching the 5,000 mark for a second time in four days.

Cyprus has reported 177,721 COVID-19 cases and 641 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.