Two new cases of the so-called Indian variant of Covid-19 have been detected on the island among 170 samples, the health ministry said on Wednesday.
The samples, which had undergone genome sequencing at the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC), concern cases detected between April 30 and May 21.
Four cases of the Indian variant had been detected earlier in May, but authorities said they concerned travellers from third countries who had been quarantined.
First detected in India in December 2020, the variant is thought to have a higher transmissibility and some impact on vaccine effectiveness, especially after one dose, the ECDC says.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said later that authorities were trying to determine the origin of the two cases, as he once more highlighted the importance of testing in the timely detection of infections.
“We are concerned about the detection of mutations, but we expected it,” Ioannou said. “What we are doing is trying to delay it with measures and tests, until we build an immunity wall with inoculations. That is why we are appealing to people to set up vaccination appointments because it is the only way to protect ourselves, particularly from variants.”
Most of the sequenced samples – 166 — were of the variant first detected in Britain, and two concerned the C.36 variant, which is not a variant of concern. The so-called British variant is already widespread on the island.
Of the 170 people, 91 are permanent residents of Nicosia, 46 live in Limassol, eight in Paphos, 16 in Larnaca, and nine in Famagusta, the health ministry said.
It warned that despite the strict measures at Larnaca and Paphos airports, the possibility of the new variants entering the country remained high.
“It has been scientifically proven that vaccinating a high percentage of the population and faithful adherence to personal protection measures is the strongest weapon in containing the virus’ spread and prevent the emergence of new, more transmissible variants,” the ministry said.
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