Scientists warned people on Monday not to become complacent about protection from the coronavirus because of the high vaccination numbers, as the highly transmissible Delta variant made achieving herd immunity very difficult.

They warned that fully vaccinated people must continue to take protective measures because they too transmitted the virus, albeit at a lower rate.

Cyprus has so far fully vaccinated around 70 per cent of its adult population with some 76 per cent receiving at least one dose.

Lecturer in paediatrics at the European University and member of the government advisory committee Zoe Dorothea Pana, welcomed the high number of vaccinated people, which ranked Cyprus among the top in the EU, but warned that people should not let their guard down.

“It should not make us complacent nor, unfortunately, give us the sense of security of herd immunity, to think the community is protected,” Pana said.

“Strictly speaking, the concept of herd immunity which does not allow the virus to spread and protects the entire community, especially now with the Delta variant – the most transmissible variant we are facing since the start of the pandemic – makes herd immunity very difficult,” she added.

Pana said it was important to achieve high vaccination coverage across all age groups in a bid to have a high degree of protection.

She said vaccinated people must also take protective measures because they too could transmit the virus, although at a lower rate.

Pana reiterated that vaccinated people were protected from serious illness and death in the event they were infected. If a vaccinated person was exposed to an environment with a high viral load, they would be infected, she said, but they are protected and will not transmit the virus at the same rate as someone who is not vaccinated.

Her comments were echoed by the head of the Covid hospital in Famagusta.

“Even those who have been vaccinated should be careful and follow protective and hygiene measures because, while their coronavirus illness might be milder, with the percentage of the Delta variant in the community being so high, they can still transmit it to other people,” Amalia Hadjiyianni said.

Around 87 per cent of patients currently being treated at Famagusta hospital have not received the Covid jab, Hadjiyianni said. On Friday it was 90 per cent.

The hospital is currently treating 59 people, nine of whom in the high dependency unit, as they need closer monitoring.

The youngest patient is 34 years old and the oldest 92. The average age is 60 years.

Israel has already started administering booster shots to over 50s while Germany and France have announced plans to start doing so in the autumn.

Pana said the current data indicated that the booster or third shot would mainly concern vulnerable people like the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Cyprus is discussing the matter and analysing the data in a bid to have concrete data concerning the time and population groups that need to receive it first.