COVID19: Face masks could return as cases spike

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Face masks may return only weeks after being ditched, as health authorities are puzzled over a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases recorded in recent days.

In comments to CyBC radio, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela said that authorities are troubled over the recent surge.

“We’re waiting to see if hospitalisations will also go up, and then we will decide accordingly”.

Hadjipantela had discussed reintroducing face masks with his Israeli counterpart Nitzan Horowitz on Tuesday.

“We do not have an increase of cases only in our country; it’s also in other EU states.

“We take all measures like other European countries, but the Ministry of Health is not complacent…if we have to take measures, we will take them”.

He noted the government is concerned over a negative public reaction to not conforming to the rules change.

“We are troubled over whether people will be complying or whether the ministry will have to inform people in another way”.

Asked to comment on a reported shortage of self-test kits at pharmacies, while state-paid rapid tests are performed only on weekends, the minister noted that usually, more than 10,000 rapid tests are performed per day.

“We are talking about performing some additional targeted tests.”

Cypriots ditched the face mask on 1 June as authorities lifted the last remaining coronavirus restrictions, including masks for indoor areas and airports.

A mask mandate for public transport is still in place.

Face masks indoors were imposed against the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in August 2020.

Cyprus reported two deaths in the weekly Covid bulletin on Friday, with new cases nearly doubling to 3,470 from 2,207 the week before.

Hospitalisations increased slightly within a week from 31 to 34, and critical cases dropped to one, with one intubated patient.

Covid data has worsened since last week.

Total SARS-CoV-2 infections since March 2020 rose to 497,454, while 1,070 deaths have been reported.

Sub-variant  

The surge in COVID cases is due to the new sub-variant Omicron BA5 in the community, said Dr Petros Karayiannis, member of the government’s coronavirus advisory committee.

He urged people to take self-protection measures adding that in the last 3-4 weeks, the cases due to this new sub-variant have increased by 19%.

Karayiannis said that many European countries are faced with increased cases, but the situation in Cyprus is under control.

He advised the public to wear a face mask in crowded indoor places.

Asked if new restrictions will be announced, he said that for the time being, this is not the plan unless hospitalisations are on the rise.