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Coronavirus: High jab rate and other measures ‘should help contain winter uptick’

file photo: a health official draws a dose of the astrazeneca's covid 19 vaccine manufactured by the serum institute of india, at infectious diseases hospital in colombo

Cyprus’ relatively high vaccination coverage and adherence to personal protection measures should help contain any uptick in coronavirus cases this winter, a member of the government’s team of advisors said on Friday.

But Petros Karayiannis, professor of Microbiology/Molecular Virology at the University of Nicosia Medical School, warned that children – where vaccination coverage is low — face a greater risk of infection.

The importance of vaccination was echoed a little later by EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides after a meeting with Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis focused on the EU’s farm to fork strategy.

Kyriakides spoke of a ‘critical juncture’ as regards the pandemic, with cases rising in nearly all EU Member States. The vaccines are a shield, as the EU also presses on with its treatment strategy, with a portfolio of about 10 potential drugs.

“With the change in the weather, the arrival of winter, the relaxation of measures and low vaccination rates in some countries, we are seeing an increase in cases,” she said.

Some member states were facing increased pressure on their health systems, and these were mainly countries with low vaccination rates, she added.

Compared to the start of the pandemic, vaccines which have been proven to be safe and effective are available, she stressed, noting that Covid patients in hospitals or in ICUs are mainly unvaccinated.

Their remarks came as the health ministry announced an uptick in positive infections after months of steady decline.

According to Friday’s national report, a total of 1815 cases were detected from October 10 to October 23, pushing up the two-week cumulative diagnosis rate of Covid-19 to 204.4 per 100,000 compared to 151.5 in the previous two weeks. The 10-19 and 30-39 age groups experienced higher rates of infections the report added.

Karayiannis noted that after a stabilising, cases have recorded a small rise in the past two to three weeks.

“We have touched 200 cases a day when were expecting at some point to fall to two-digits. It appears this is not achievable yet. Therefore, special care is needed because we are now entering the coldest months of the winter,” he said.

Asked whether he expected a surge in infections in winter, he expressed the hope that this would be mild.

“Because of the high vaccination coverage in Cyprus, we can contain any increase and deal with it adequately. Of course, this will depend to a large extent on our own behaviour and particularly the implementation of personal protection measures and protocols at work,” he said.

Just as Cyprus had slowly but steadily managed to bring down the number of cases using the measures currently in force, there was no reason why they should not also be effective now, he added.

The Delta plus variant does not, for the time being, give cause for special concern, even though it is 10 to 15 per cent more easily transmitted. Based on the UK experience, where it represents 10 per cent of the cases, it does not appear to lead to heavier illness and appears to be adequately addressed by the vaccines.

Karayiannis said that countries facing a surge in cases were those with low vaccination rates, as in the Balkans, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, and Ukraine. Northern Greece, where vaccination coverage was around 55 per cent, also faces a tougher situation.

Cyprus’ vaccination rate of some 80 per cent of the adult population gives grounds for some optimism, although rates for children aged 12 to 18 are lower, while children under 12 are not being vaccinated, he added.

“There will be a problem here. Children under 12 are not vaccinated and potentially can be infected. This will depend on the population groups in which the virus will be active. If it is in the family environment, then children may become infected and take it to school, or they may become infected elsewhere and take it to school. We will see in the next few days and weeks whether there will be a problem,” he said.

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