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Coronavirus: Concerns rise over Delta variant

Leondios Kostrikis, Professor of Molecular Biology at the Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Cyprus (CNA)

Fresh concerns have arisen over the Delta variant and a possible fourth wave, as a former government adviser warned that variants risk being brought in from the UK.

Professor Leontios Kostrikis, who was front and centre at the daily press briefing during the first few months of the outbreak, has said that the focus should be on the UK.

“There have been three epidemiological waves, each one was driven by a different ‘virus’,” Kostrikis, head of the University of Cyprus’ laboratory of biotechnology and molecular virology, said on Tuesday.

Speaking to Sigma, he further warned that each of the three waves were spurred on by a different variant, each brought in from the UK.

While the emergence of variants is not unexpected, they have been described as foreseeable but unpredictable, health authorities are concerned.

Many governments are attempting to minimise their population’s exposure to variants which may potentially ‘escape’ vaccines.

On Monday, the government prohibited the entry into Cyprus of any person who had been to India in the past 14 days.

Kostrikis however argued that a “fourth wave” in September is likely, due to the Delta variant, with the main source of the variant being the UK.

Asked about a “return to pre-pandemic normality”, Kostrikis proposed that life as it was may be possible by the end of the year.

Other international bodies and scientists have cautioned that the coronavirus will likely “be with us forever”.

Kostrikis said that currently the British variant [the Alpha variant which was first detected in Kent] is the dominant variant but there are concerns that the Delta variant will come to primacy.

Hours later, the health ministry issued an announcement reiterating the steps it is taking “at the entry points to limit the importation of Sars-Cov-2 variants”.

The ministry said that those who are fully vaccinated may travel to Cyprus without the requirement of a negative PCR test.

For those in countries categorised as ‘orange’ (this includes the UK) and do not meet the vaccination criteria mentioned above, the traveller must provide proof of a negative PCR test valid within the past 72 hours.

Some have raised concerns over not requiring negative PCR tests from those who are fully vaccinated, noting that they are still able to be infected by and transmit the virus – albeit at lower levels.

Concerns over the Delta variant are what led the British government to delay by four weeks – and possibly longer – the lifting of the final coronavirus restrictions.

Kostrikis noted however that the younger generations, “the unvaccinated”, will be hit harder should a fourth wave take place.

Asked about booster shots, Kostrikis said that a third shot of the vaccine against the coronavirus may likely be required but it is still too early to say.

Kostrikis resigned from the government’s coronavirus advisory committee in February.

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