The current reproduction number of the coronavirus in Cyprus is between 1.6 and two, experts said on Thursday, as they urged people to apply protective measures strictly in a bid to stem the upward trend.
In a news conference on Thursday, virologist Leontios Kostrikis said the current reproduction number was between 1.6 and two, which meant one infected person could infect between 1.6 or two other people.
“There is an upward trend. Our aim is to bring this indicator to under one as it was a few weeks ago,” he said.
Concerned by a recent spike in cases, health authorities have launched a large-scale random screening programme across the island to get a picture of the situation.
Kostrikis said the programme, which started on Wednesday, is a real-time snapshot of the virus’ prevalence on the island.
The screening, involving 10,000 tests, will be carried out by crews in various areas in all districts who would show up unannounced in a bid to ensure its randomness and a more accurate picture.
The move was deemed necessary after a similar programme of 3,000 tests in Limassol had been tainted by people who were known contacts of confirmed cases and should have been tested elsewhere.
Instead of keeping their appointments, the contacts visited the ministry’s mobile units and gave their samples there.
Clinical epidemiologist and paediatrician, Zoi-Dorothea Pana, urged the public to strictly observe protective measures.
Pana said during the past two weeks, over 70 per cent of infections concerned community transmission. Most cases involved people up to 45 and a lot of those infected were asymptomatic.
“We want to call on people, especially the youth, to be careful since eventually they will spread it to older people who will present symptoms and other problems,” Kostrikis said. said.
As regards airports, he said authorities are constantly improving measures and procedures.
So far 27,000 passengers had been randomly tested at both airports, most belonging to countries in category A, which does not require a negative test for entry.
Kostrikis said Cyprus system of having two categories, B requiring a negative test as a condition for entry, was now being adopted by Germany and Austria.
The experts warned against complacency, warning that it was a marathon and not a sprint.
“We must be in good epidemiological shape until we are vaccinated. The vaccine is the finish line,” Kostrikis said.
Later in the day, the health ministry called on people to take part in the random testing which is expected to be completed within 15 days.
The ministry said the 10,000 tests will be done via mobile units in all districts. The exact location and time of the testing has not been announced in a deliberate effort to limit the attendance of people who either have symptoms or who are close contacts of people already tested positive. Instead pop up units will appear sporadically offering people the chance to take random tests.
This, it said, would help get more accurate results through truly random samples. In total, 3,900 samples will be taken in the Nicosia district, 2,800 in Limassol, 1,680 in Larnaca, 550 in Famagusta and 1,070 in Paphos.