COVID19: Too early to lift restrictions

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It is too early to lift Covid-19 restrictions as although daily cases have stabilised they are still high at around 3,000, said virologist and government advisor Dr Petros Karayiannis

He told the Cyprus News Agency it is not easy to predict the course of the current coronavirus wave yet.

“While we saw a continuous decline in the previous waves, the current wave showed at least three ups and downs – it dropped to a level, then we went up a little, and last week it went even higher.”

Karayiannis said this week would determine where things are headed.

Although other countries have lifted their restrictions, they have high vaccination coverage and health systems with more capacity than Cyprus in terms of the number of hospital beds or for Intensive Care Units.

“I find it a bit risky in the middle of winter amid an outbreak to proceed with such relaxations.”

He said other EU countries had made their assessments that they will be able to cope even if hospitalisations increase.

The Omicron variant recorded fewer patients whose condition is serious, but there have been hospitalisations.

He said most patients treated in the ICUs for Covid-19 are unvaccinated, with an average age of 70.

Epidemiologists predicted a drop in the number of cases two or three weeks ago, as they had assessed the situation based on how things developed in South Africa.

“Our difference is that South Africa is in the summer months; we are in winter.”

“People are mostly indoors during winter, which leads to more infections, including among people who are vaccinated especially if they have not received the booster shot.”

He said, however, that even people who have had booster jabs can become ill.

“This was evident from studies in England where there were cases where people got sick between three to five times and even with Omicron, twice.

“It seems the Omicron variant escapes immunity if people have not had an adequate immune response.”

There is also the appearance of Omicron BA2 subvariant, which, some studies showed, seems to escape immunity a little more than Omicron.

“There is a 70% possibility of getting ill with Omicron, while it is around 50% for the subvariant.

“That is why we need to be careful, and that is why I do not agree at the moment with the excessive relaxations in northern Europe with just recommendations to wear masks.”

Karayiannis argues, “the virus is here to stay.”

He said that unless a new variant emerges, this summer’s situation will be more relaxed than last year.