As police were trying to track down people who violated Covid health and safety measures in Limassol on Sunday by staging a carnival street party, scientists expressed dismay and concern, warning that such behaviour would only aggravate the pandemic and increase hospitalisations.

They warned that the mass gathering would inevitably lead to a rise in infections and probably hospital admissions.

Police said earlier on Monday they have so far booked 40 people and shuttered one establishment following the party that sparked outrage across the island.

The force said in a statement it has issued fines to 40 people who took part in the party at the Limassol marina area. Two establishments in the area were also booked. Police said one of them failed to comply prompting the chief of police to order its closure.

Police said it continued its investigation into the event.

Earlier on Sunday, scores of people turned up in the city centre in their cars to mark carnival weekend though no official parade or events were officially taking place.

In the evening, photos and videos posted online showed hundreds of people partying with zero distancing and many not wearing a mask as they danced around and socialised.

According to late reports, there were 1,500 people there.

In a post on his Facebook page, the head of the Covid unit at Famagusta general hospital said he had no words for the goings on.

“I no longer have the strength,” Christos Kypri said. Admissions are non-stop, he added, and health authorities were trying to deploy more beds to provide all patients with the necessary care.

“I don’t care about being tired. I am sure neither my staff does. But we care when our patients die. You may not hold a gun, but you should know you are the one pulling the trigger.”

Petros Karayiannis, professor of microbiology and molecular virology at the University of Nicosia, expressed concern over the effects of the mass gathering.

“This behaviour will bring a rise in cases and hospitalisations in the next 10 days,” he said.

Limassol mayor Nicos Nicolaides took to Twitter to express his grief at Sunday evening’s events: “Under no circumstances does this represent the vast majority of Limassolians.”

Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis said that across the island on Sunday police booked 286 people for various coronavirus-related violations.

Of these, 109 concerned Limassol, including the 40 at the carnival party.

“What occurred yesterday is extremely alarming. Sadly a section of our fellow citizens do not realise what we are dealing with or how critical the situation is, nor does this demonstrate respect for the sacrifices of others.”

She added: “At a time when the majority of our fellow citizens religiously adhere to the measures, waiting their turn to be vaccinated and hope for a return to normality, it is a shame that a minority jeopardises public health.”

Yiolitis said there were 43 police cars on patrol on Sunday, 20 more than on any given day.

The minister said that while authorities are doing their job enforcing the law, the public is expected to do their part as well.

“Our goal is not for the police to chase around people, or people trying to come up with ways to fool the police.

“The reality, unfortunately, is that no one can fool the virus. Nor does the virus choose between a police officer or civilian. We are all candidates [for infection] and we need to realise that.”

People took to social media to express their anger at those Limassol residents who ignored measures to have fun, potentially aggravating the pandemic and forcing harsher restrictions.

“Our children have been sitting home for four months so some people can have a carnival. Where do our rights begin and end? Is there a right to education?,” said one Facebook user. “Government, ministers, president, police…where are you? Shame.”

“Then they will shout that we are locked down again,” said another. “Irresponsible”.

A third post said: “We are locked in because Limassol wants to have fun. They need martial law!”

Limassol has been a Covid hotspot for weeks, consistently recording the highest number of infections on a daily basis. Health authorities said around 70 per cent of hospital admissions were from Limassol.

The district also leads all other districts in daily violations of government decrees.