COVID19: Booster for elderly, teenagers as cases surge

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Cyprus will be rolling out a second COVID-19 booster shot for the elderly and vulnerable, and a first booster shot for children aged 12 to 17, while no further relaxations are expected any time soon.

Following a new surge in daily coronavirus cases to nearly 5,300, and an uptick in hospitalisations, the cabinet on Tuesday approved the rollout of a fourth jab for people over the age of 70 and the immunocompromised.

Health professionals, residents and workers at care homes, as well as closed structures will be eligible for a fourth COVID-19 vaccine shot, regardless of age.

Eligible groups can come forward for their shot provided that five months have lapsed since their first booster.

Immunocompromised groups include people who are undergoing treatment for tumours and haematological malignancies, have a history of solid organ transplantation receiving immunosuppressive therapy.

Also, people with inherited immune deficiency, or with HIV/AIDS, or are on an immunosuppressive therapy, including biological agents

The cabinet also approved a first booster shot for children aged 12 to 17, provided that six months have passed from their last shot.

Both the second booster shot for the elderly and vulnerable, and the first booster shot for teenagers will be optional and will not affect the validity of people’s SafePass documents needed to access hospitality venues.

Earlier on Monday, reports had the health ministry going back on a previous decision to lift more measures, in the light of a new surge in cases and hospitalisations.

Relaxations expected included the withdrawal of a mask mandate in public areas.

Reconsider in two weeks

Authorities have said that they will be reconsidering changes following the next epidemiological survey, in two weeks’ time.

On Monday, new cases spiralled to a near-record 5,286, leaping from from 3,698 the previous day, and hospitalisations rose to 149, of whom 31 were in a more serious condition.

The benchmark infection rate dropped from Sunday’s all -time high of 4.9% to 4.63% on Monday, but remains far above the safety threshold of 1%.

As reported by the State Health Services Organisation (OKYPY), over the weekend alone some 30 patients had been admitted to a COVID-19 ward.

In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, OKYPY spokesperson Charalambos Charilaou said that, “0.5% of cases need hospitalisation. With cases remaining over 4,000 a day, that would mean that we will be admitting some 20 patients on a daily basis”.

Health experts are concerned that the average age of people in hospital is 70 years and 76 years for those in Intensive Care Units.

The government’s scientific advisor, Dr Peter Karayiannis, said that the high number of cases reported in recent days was “unexpected” and attributed the surge to a shift in people’s mentality regarding the virus.

6,000 daily cases

“Many no longer wear masks indoors or in busy places, I receive complaints every day about it. We have let down our guard,” he told Alpha TV on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, I believe the number of cases will further rise in the upcoming days, I expect we will reach 6,000 daily infections very soon.”

According to reports, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas has instructed health advisors to redesign the roadmap to handling the pandemic in the coming months, in light of worsening epidemiological data.

Meanwhile, the health ministry has announced that some 3,306 cases reported during the seven-day period between 12 and 18 March involved people who had been re-infected with the virus.

Virologist and government advisor Maria Koliou told state radio CyBC on Tuesday that the majority of re-infections concerns unvaccinated people, noting that an unvaccinated person has 30 times higher chances of contracting the virus.