COVID19: Four deaths, fewer cases

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Cyprus reported four COVID-19 deaths this week and a further drop in new infections, as health officials warn of an increase in new cases during Christmas gatherings, combined with other viruses affecting the respiratory system.

The health ministry said in its bulletin on Friday that the latest victims were two men and two women, aged 88 to 95, raising the death toll since the pandemic started in March 2020 to 1,255.

This was down from two last week, while the total included one more death in October last year, retrospectively attributed to coronavirus.

New cases continued to drop for the fifth consecutive week, down to 2,947 from 3,460 the week before.

Some 73 COVID patients were in hospital, almost the same as last week, while 11 were in a critical state, up by two.

Three patients remained intubated in an ICU, while eight were treated in an Acute Care Unit.

In a meeting on Monday with Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela, health experts advising the government on handling the COVID pandemic suggested measures, including stepping up vaccinations for COVID-19.

Following a suggestion by the team of advisors, guidelines will be sent to the public on how to protect themselves against circulating viruses during the Christmas holidays.

“At the same time, the Ministry of Health will intensify its actions to increase the vaccination coverage of the population against COVID-19 and especially to increase vaccinations with a booster dose, given the importance it has for strengthening the immunity of vulnerable groups,” the ministry said.

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

The ministry said it has no plans of re-introducing COVID restrictions over the festive season.

Daily average drops

Coronavirus infections since the pandemic rose to 628,509.

The average daily rate of infections dropped to 421 from 494 last week.

Testing was slightly below last week’s level, reaching 67,962 PCR and rapid antigen tests, about 3,000 less than before.

The benchmark ‘positivity rate’ dropped to 4.34% from 4.9%, just over four 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.