COVID19: February death toll cause for concern

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After one of the deadliest weeks of the pandemic, February is on track to become the worst month since the COVID-19 started with 26 victims already claimed.

Scientists and the Health Ministry are concerned over the high number of deaths, noting that the majority are older people who had opted not to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Epidemiologist Dr Michalis Voniatis told Phileleftheros the high number of deaths recorded in February resulted from the explosion in cases recorded in January when daily cases peaked at 5,457.

“January recorded a total of 95,000 cases; they are still stubbornly high, not dropping under 2,500,” said Voniatis.

“With such numbers, we should expect to see more deaths.”

Noting that most losses involved unvaccinated seniors, Voniatis stressed: “even people infected with Omicron can develop serious illness and die”.

“That is why we are insisting that people who have not yet been vaccinated come forward for a jab. The facts are in plain sight.

“If we did not have a vaccination rate over 84% amongst the adult population, we would have had even more deaths. Just like Greece.”

Voniatis argued the number of deaths would have been higher if not for authorities acting promptly to introduce a booster shot for the elderly in September.

Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas confirmed his ministry is on the same page with scientists, confirming that most people dying from COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

The World Health Organisation has attributed some 500,000 COVID-19 deaths worldwide to Omicron; a variant believed to cause less severe disease.

“It is more than tragic to see people turning down lifesaving vaccines, choosing to remain unprotected against the virus,” said Hadjipantelas.

“This is why we are witnessing this increase in deaths.”

The minister said authorities respect people’s choice not to get vaccinated, “but that being said, there is nothing more we can do to save them”.

“If they chose not to get vaccinated, then their fate is in their own hands”.

Arguing that despite the increased number of deaths in recent months, Hadjipantelas said Cyprus has the lowest death rate compared to other EU countries.

February’s 26 deaths follow January being the deadliest month since the pandemic started in March 2020, with 96 COVID-19 deaths; the majority were unvaccinated older people.

January surpassed the previous record in August when 95 COVID-19 deaths were recorded.

On Wednesday, health authorities reported another 2,779 cases and five deaths, making it 280,643 infections and 761 deaths.