COVID19: Fear for nursing homes as death toll rises

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The death toll of COVID-19 in Cyprus continues to rise, as the Health Ministry reported another seven victims in the past week, with nursing homes a focus of concern.

It is the third week that health authorities have reported seven deaths, with experts extending an urgent plea to people over 60 to get a second booster.

In its weekly COVID report, the ministry said the seven victims were aged between 73 and 99, four women and three men.

New cases increased slightly to 4,214 from 3,736 last week and 3,625 the week before.

The ministry has also adjusted the death toll to include one more fatality earlier in September last year, raising the total number of fatalities since the pandemic started in March 2020 to 1,226.

Some 74 COVID patients were in hospital on Friday, the same number as last week, while seven were in a critical state.

One patient remained intubated in an ICU, while six were treated in an Acute Care Unit.

The upward trend in cases and deaths has health authorities concerned as they renew their call to people to get vaccinated.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, virologist and government adviser on COVID19, Dr Peter Karayiannis, expressed his concern over the high number of cases among older people in homes.

“According to the Health Ministry’s report, 86 cases were found among elderly people living in nursing homes.

“This is extremely worrying and a direct result of the low take-up rate of the second booster from people older than 60,” said Karayiannis.

“We have seen that there is hesitation from the elderly and their family to have their loved ones vaccinated with a fourth jab. It is incomprehensible.

“People over 60 most likely took their first booster shot more than a year ago.

Take-up on the second booster vaccination has been lower than expected, with only 21.5% over 60 getting the fourth jab and 2.4% having had a fifth shot.

“People generally have a false sense of being safe, thinking that the variants currently in circulation are not as deadly as previous ones.

“The low mortality rate, however, is down to the effectiveness of the vaccines.”

The government has already launched a vaccination programme in mountain communities, which was a success last year while getting GPs on board to convince people to get the fourth jab.

Bivalent mRNA vaccines, covering the Omicron variant and its BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, are available as a second booster at vaccination stations.

Daily average

Coronavirus infections since the pandemic rose to 614,237.

The average daily rate of infections increased to 602, up from 533 last week.

Testing was at similar levels, reaching 73,973 PCR and rapid antigen tests, about 3,000 more than before.

The benchmark ‘positivity rate’ increased to 5.7% from 5.28%, more than five times higher than the safe infection rate of 1%.

Masks remain mandatory in hospitals, testing labs and pharmacies.

Free government testing sites are only available at state hospitals for visitors.