COVID19: Cyprus mulls lifting more measures

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Cyprus health authorities will be looking at hospital admissions before easing any more COVID measures, say experts.

Despite a recent surge of COVID-19 infections pushing daily cases to a record high of 6,494 on Monday, authorities are contemplating relaxing measures as the number of patients in ICUs remain stable.

In comments to news site Stockwatch, Virologist Maria Koliou said that epidemiologists advising the government had suggested that a mask mandate for outdoor facilities would be waived; however, that decision was put on ice after a new surge in cases.

She noted that health authorities had opted to wait a couple of weeks to see how the new surge of cases would affect the number of hospitalisations, especially for patients needing intensive care.

“Despite the rise in cases, we have not seen the number of people in need of ICU treatment follow the same trend.”

Authorities are contemplating reducing the number of tests carried out, with Dr Koliou commenting that scientists were still unsure.

Last Friday, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela confirmed that further relaxations were on the cards, provided that hospitalisations remain stable.

It includes dropping the mask mandate for outdoor facilities and reducing the number of tests carried out on students every week.

The government is under pressure to reduce testing requirements.

Pulmonologist Dr Charis Armeftis said: “Cyprus is the leading country when it comes to conducting tests”.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, 30,000,000 tests have been carried out, which means that we spend half a million euros every day and €15,000,000 per month.

“That money is equivalent to another 50 intensive care beds.

“The number of tests in Cyprus is unrealistically high compared to the rest of the world.

“We are first in Europe, carrying out some 26 tests to identify one positive case, while in Germany, the ratio is two to one.”

According to Armeftis, the Health Ministry should focus on protecting those at risk, campaigning to persuade the unvaccinated and those who have not received a booster shot to come forward.

Last week, Cyprus was warned by the World Health Organisation over lifting coronavirus restrictions too “brutally”, facilitating the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron 2 subvariant of COVID-19.

On Monday, a record number of 6,494 new cases were reported, along with three new deaths.

Hospitalisations rose from 175 the previous night to 190, while four patients were intubated compared to two on Sunday.