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Coronavirus: High rate of transmission within schools, expert says  (Updated)

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The health ministry is awaiting details of a reported incident suggesting that around 100 students at a single school were self-isolating, while a government expert says there is a high rate of transmission within schools.

Reports said the incident concerned a group of students and teachers from a Limassol technical school who had travelled to Glasgow. Upon return to Cyprus, one teacher tested positive, but the rest of the group went to school anyway.

Health ministry spokesperson Constantinos Athanasiou was reticent to elaborate further – as he said that his department is awaiting further details of the incident – but confirmed that about 100 people were now self-isolating.

“What do you mean, they returned from abroad [and tested positive] but did not self-isolate?” Athanasiou was asked on Antenna television on Wednesday morning.

Athanasiou said that the contact tracing and epidemiological surveillance unit is investigating the incident in cooperation with the education ministry to see whether there was a breakdown in procedures.

Reports said the principal instructed all students to attend school. Tests later detected 15 more positive cases – 10 students and five teachers – while 100 people have been placed in quarantine.

Among the other active clusters is one at a Larnaca primary school, where a 51-year-old teacher tested positive and later died from the virus.

The teacher, who died on Tuesday, had reportedly refused to be hospitalised after his condition worsened.

The virus also hit a group of 25 OAPs who went on a pilgrimage to Fterikoudi and so far six have tested positive.

Elsewhere, member of the government’s Covid-19 advisory team Maria Koliou said there is a “high rate of transmission within the schools”.

On Tuesday 50 cases were reported at schools through the health ministry’s free testing programme that netted a total of 131 cases from 31,176 tests that day.

She added the caveat however that there are significantly more tests being carried out at the schools, so a higher number of positives are being identified – so “we’re seeing more clearly what the situation is whereas before we weren’t”.

She added that from December 13 those aged five and above will have the option to receive the vaccine, provided their parents consent.

Speaking to Sigma, Koliou was asked about the ongoing debate over mandatory vaccination – with special reference made to Greece, where the over 60s have been mandated to get vaccinated or be fined monthly.

“Well look, as regards the over 60s in Cyprus we have an exceptionally good rate of those who have received both doses of the vaccine – which if I’m not mistaken is above 90 per cent – so we don’t have such an issue with the older age groups,” she said.

 

Koliou noted that she is aware that the health minister has spoken to the attorney general on the issue of mandating vaccines but has no further information on the specifics.

“But I understand that in Cyprus that vaccinations cannot be imposed by law, our constitution does not encourage this but there are other measures at the government’s disposal, the so-called incentives,” she said.

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