Nine new cases of Covid-19 infections were reported on Thursday, bringing the number to 67 in the south, as the government requisitioned the services of all doctors and nurses while seeking to quash rumours of an impending curfew.
Six of the new confirmed cases related to people coming into contact with a person who had previously tested positive for the disease.
The other three new cases are persons returning from abroad – Bulgaria, Italy and the UK. All three were self-isolating and contacted authorities once they began displaying symptoms.
Of the nine latest cases, three were involved with Paphos general hospital.
One of the new incidences was a nurse at the hospital, and the other two are patients who were being treated there.
Authorities said 37 of the 67 Covid-19 infections in the south relate to people coming into contact with previously confirmed cases.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said about 50 nurses in Nicosia are in self-isolation. Many are expected to be able to return to work on Monday.
In Paphos, 60 nurses are in self-isolation and four to five doctors.
In the island’s north meantime, 13 new cases were confirmed during the day, bringing the total there to 33. Reports said 12 of these are German tourists from the same group as the 65-year-old German woman who was the first recorded case in the north. The 13th individual is a Turkish Cypriot woman, the wife of a Turkish Cypriot who had recently arrived from the UK.
Back in the south, and as the battle against Covid-19 raged on, the government mobilised the island’s healthcare workers. Under a decree, all registered doctors and nurses – including those in the private sector – are placed directly under the health minister’s orders starting 6pm on Friday.
The decree effectively drafts registered physicians and nurses into the state effort to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The Paphos and Limassol general hospitals remain closed as health authorities continue to test their staff for coronavirus.
The Limassol hospital was closed on Thursday after a paediatrician working there was found positive for coronavirus on Wednesday. The hospital’s children’s ward was shut down immediately.
It’s understood that among the paediatrician’s contacts was a senior health state services administrator, Christos Nicolaou, who is currently self-isolating and working from home as he awaits the result on his Covid-19 test.
Persons cleared by testing negative must regardless self-isolate at home for 14 days.
Paphos general hospital is likewise still closed since last Saturday evening when a patient being treated in the intensive care unit and who had been visited by relatives from the UK, tested positive for the virus.
Following the confirmation, the ministry shuttered the hospital to the public and placed everyone inside in quarantine.
So far, 360 of around 680 workers and 50 patients at Paphos hospital have been tested with 12 positive outcomes – nine nurses, one doctor, a patient, and a cleaner.
Meantime the government denied it was considering a total lockdown on the country.
“The government strenuously denies that it intends to enforce a ban on the movement of people or a full freeze on the operation of businesses or offices, let alone supermarkets and food stores,” government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios said in a written statement.
Under the circumstances as they now stand, he added, such drastic measures are unnecessary.
“There is no cause for panic, nor should our fellow citizens be influenced by whispers or rumours circulating from time to time from various so-called sources.”
But whereas the spokesman stressed a curfew was off the table for the time being, his particular choice of words suggested the option was not being ruled out altogether.
At the same time that it was denying plans for a forced lockdown, the government was mass-texting people on mobile phones asking them to keep their movements outdoors down to an absolute minimum.
The text message from the interior ministry read: “We are at a critical stage. Isolation minimises the spread of Coronavirus. Limit movements to the absolute necessary. Protect high-risk population. Ministry of Interior PIO.”
Meanwhile the health ministry announced a change in the way individuals with Covid-19 symptoms should alert authorities.
Rather than call the 1420 emergency number, as was the case up until now, people are instructed to call their general physician (GP) and follow instructions. GPs will contact, when necessary, the health ministry’s epidemiology unit to jointly decide how to deal with the situation and will be informing his or her patient.
If a person is diagnosed as positive, they must self-isolate at home and will be monitored through the phone by their GP.
GPs have been asked to make arrangements for a colleague of theirs to fill in for them if they are not able to serve their patients.
If patients receive no response from either of the two doctors, they are urged to send an email to HIO at [email protected] .
On the air travel front, 276 people on inbound flights were allowed to enter the Republic after producing the required health certificates. And 992 persons – mostly tourists – flew out of Paphos on 10 flights.