Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou reassured the public on Monday that his ministry was taking all the necessary measures regarding the threat of coronavirus and was “constantly vigilant”
“There is a general concern among states regarding the virus, but without it being translated into panic,” he told a press conference, called to explain the results of his meeting with EU counterparts in Brussels on February 13 where he briefed them on the measures Cyprus is taking to tackle the epidemic.
“Although there is no way to prevent an outbreak in any country in the world, I want to reassure everyone that we are taking every step needed in order to protect ourselves.”
The number of deaths from the coronavirus in China rose to more than 1,700 on Monday, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The total number of cases in the Asian country, most of them in the central province of Hubei, has surpassed 70,000.
Referring to the protocols that Cyprus would adopt in cases of an outbreak, he said that WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have already sent the health ministry guidelines on the measures to take in case of a coronavirus outbreak based on past epidemics, such as SARS and MERS.
“Should there be enough concern on a specific case to prompt a coronavirus alert, the patient would be immediately transferred to a hospital and put in isolation until the diagnosis is confirmed.”
He said there are currently specially designed areas at the Nicosia and Limassol general hospitals and at Makarios Hospital for the isolation of patients.
The ministry of health is also moving ahead with creating a quarantine centre in Kyperounta for people who have come into contact with the coronavirus.
“The hospital in Kyperounta has the infrastructure to accommodate who have come into contact with the coronavirus,” the minister said.
He said all relevant parties know the emergency plan, including the police, airport staff and the port management companies.
“We are checking every person who is arriving in Cyprus from China, even if it they only transited through China and regardless of whether they show symptoms that can be linked to coronavirus,” he said.
“In the unlikely event of a pandemic, our action plan states that patients would be able to use private hospitals as well, along with public hospitals. It’s an extreme scenario, but we need to be prepared for everything.”
The health minister said the ministry is also in touch with the corresponding Turkish Cypriot health sector through the bicommunal technical committee on health, for a constant exchange of information regarding the virus.
He praised the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics for helping out in the examinations of all suspect cases.
“Their work is extremely important because it allows us to have the results of the examinations much faster than if we had to wait for them from abroad. Many European countries cannot do the same.”
Head of the public health services Elisavet Constantinou said the probability of the virus spreading in Europe is very low and warned against panic.
“I think people should not stigmatise anyone who must be examined for any reason, whether they are tourists or Cypriot citizens,” Constantinou said.
“It is also a matter of personal data and needs sensitive and discreet handling.”
Meanwhile, on February 17 at 6pm, the Nicosia University in collaboration with the municipality of Engomi, is hosting an event called “New Coronavirus: Everything You Need To Know” at the University of Nicosia Primary Care Center located at 8 Markou Drakou in Engomi.
The event in which several doctors will participate aims to spread awareness regarding coronavirus and will be hosted by the mayor of Engomi Zacharias Kyriacou.