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Coronavirus: Minister backtracks on mandatory vaccinations (Updated)

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou on Monday evening backtracked on comments he made earlier in the day that coronavirus vaccines will be ‘mandatory’ once they are available.

Quizzed by CyBC on Monday night regarding earlier statements he had made, Ioannou said: “I wrongly stated my personal opinion that it [the vaccine] should be mandatory.”

Earlier, Ioannou was asked by ANT1 whether the vaccination would be mandatory – to which he replied simply: “yes.”

However, later in the day he said the point he had been attempting to make was that in his personal opinion they need to find a way to vaccinate a large amount of the population.

He added that once 60-70 per cent of the population has been vaccinated, in statistical models, it is seen that the entire population has been vaccinated.

Health ministry sources told the Cyprus Mail that Cyprus already records a very high number of voluntary vaccinations. Unlike in other countries, the anti-vaccination movement in Cyprus is very small.

Ioannou’s earlier comments had raised questions as to how it would be possible to enforce mandatory vaccinations.

Ioannou emphasised that the timeframe for the vaccine is in no way set in stone. According to the best indicators, the earliest it will be available is towards the end of 2020 or early 2021.

Cyprus is earmarked to receive 1.2 million doses of any potential vaccine which is procured by the European Union.

If the situation were to arise where the initial amounts are lower than the 1.2 million, he said some groups would be prioritised – the vulnerable, according to age and so on.

A key point of contention for the health minister on Monday was the public letting its guard down, witnessed most notably in the recent spike in cases in Limassol.

He stressed the point that the public must observe the health guidelines. The protocols and measures currently in place will be around until the vaccine is available, he said.

Ioannou also commented that Cyprus is not a police state and as such the authorities are not able to be everywhere at once, which raises the important role of the public.

Asked whether a decree may be issued which would make mask use compulsory, he said that it is a possibility but further meetings with specialists will be taken into account.

He reiterated that there should be no need for new measures – as the ones currently in place are appropriate – but it requires people to abide and follow the current measures so as to avoid any stricter measures in the future.

“Why should there be additional measures? Abide by the current ones and there is nothing to worry about,” he said.

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