Cyprus’ epidemiological situation has improved but the relaxation of measures is likely to increase the number of Covid cases, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou warned on Saturday.
He was referring to the reopening of the retail sector and some schools levels on Monday.
The current epidemiological picture, he said allows the state to proceed to the next phase of relaxations based on the recommendations of the scientific advisory team, which “takes into account a combination of social, psychological and economic factors”.
Monday starts with the reopening of primary schools and the return of final year lyceum students as well as the operation of shops and department stores.
“We want this step to be as careful and controlled as possible. The epidemiological picture is clearly improved but the risk remains,” Ioannou said.
Responding to the Church and calls for wider opening for businesses, the minister said: “The mutated strain of the virus and the increased viral load are facts that do not allow us to be complacent.”
Ioannou noted that other European countries are currently entering new lockdowns and implementing bans on all kinds of social activities.
“We want to avoid this development,” the minister added and reminded those returning to work to abide by the health protocols to “not reach a point where we will have no other choice but to reinstate restrictive measures”.
He added that increased coronavirus cases are expected after the reopening of businesses, which is the reason why the relaxation depends on the triptych of health protocol implementation, rapid testing and vaccinations.
“The strategy of the large number of rapid tests is proving to be extremely effective and we will continue at an intensive pace,” Ioannou said.
Concerning vaccinations, the minister appeared hopeful following the approval of AstraZeneca vaccine, the first batch of which is due to arrive on Monday.
“It will allow us to proceed with our vaccination programme at a faster pace,” he said.
Vaccinations in nursing homes are completed and based on the expected quantities of vaccines the goal is to complete the vaccination of health professionals and people over 75 years of age by the end of February followed by the vaccination of vulnerable groups, according to the minister.
By first protecting the high-risk groups, Ioannou said, “we will then be able to cover the rest of the population with greater comfort.”
Cyprus entered its second lockdown on January 10 following an increase number of hospitalised patients with Covid-19. The first phase of relaxation begun on February 1 with the reopening of beauty and hair salons.
Based on comments by epidemiologists this week, hospital admissions have fallen since the implementation of restrictive measures however the number of patients in intensive care units remains high, putting pressure on state hospitals.