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COVID19: Face masks needed for visiting pharmacies, labs, test sites

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Face coverings must be worn when visiting a pharmacy, clinical labs, or government testing sites for COVID-19, less than a month after a mask mandate was lifted, the Health Ministry said Tuesday.

The Cabinet decision comes after a new surge in COVID cases and hospitalisations, which the ministry attributed to the prevalence of Omicron subvariants BA4 and BA5.

The measures come into force from Thursday for employees and the public.

Announcing its decision to reinstate face masks in pharmacies, the ministry reiterated its call for compliance with personal protection measures.

“Collective and individual responsibility has made a major contribution to the response to the pandemic”.

The ministry “strongly recommends” face coverings for people belonging to vulnerable groups gathering in indoor public places or those coming into contact with them.

From 4 July, the government will cap the selling price of individual self-tests at €1.70 to stop profiteering.

The decision comes after reports of chemists claiming they were out of self-test kits and were selling individual tests for €2. Self-test kits of five had been capped at €6.

A price ceiling was announced for PCR tests at €30 instead of the current €50 from 30 June.

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

A mask mandate for public transport, hospitals and nursing homes is still in place.

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

The move comes days after the Health Ministry’s latest epidemiological report, which showed new COVID-19 cases more than doubled to 7,263 from 3,479, with hospitalisations rising.

The positivity rate was a high 9.77% from 74,362 tests carried out.

Hospitalisations increased 40% within a week from 34 to 47, and critical cases went from one to four, with one intubated patient.

Total SARS-CoV-2 infections since March 2020 is 504,717, while 1,072 deaths have been recorded.