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Coronavirus: After some hope, cabinet looks unlikely to relax measures

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The loosening of some Covid-19 restrictions which had been expected appear to have been shelved following the health minister’s meeting with the advisory team on Tuesday.

The council of ministers will meet on Wednesday when a final decision on tweaking the restrictions will take place, amid reports that the BA.2 Omicron subvariant has been detected in Cyprus.

In the days leading up to the meeting some advisors had expressed optimism over the pandemic’s trajectory, but others said it was too soon to relax measures – citing infection rates and hospitalisations.

“I’m not sure if there will be relaxations because the past few days were discouraging as infections have got stuck at about a 2.5 per cent positivity rate,” government advisor Maria Koliou told SigmaLive on Tuesday afternoon.

But as daily Phileleftheros reported that the Omicron subvariant has been identified in Cyprus, hopes of infections falling further may be dashed. A Danish study found that BA.2 is more transmissible than Omicron and more able to infect vaccinated people.

BA.2 infections account for about 82 per cent of cases in Denmark but the country plans to scrap all remaining domestic Covid-19 restrictions anyway.

In Nicosia, health ministry sources said that issues on the cabinet’s agenda include booster doses to be made available after five months (reduced from five and a half) while unvaccinated 12-17-year-olds may be granted entry to cafés, bars and restaurants – provided that they have a negative rapid test taken within 72-hours. Some reports indicated that the minors would have to be accompanied by their vaccinated parents.

There has also been a push for stricter Covid-19 checks at care homes.

Koliou, who is an Assistant Professor of Paediatrics and Infectious Diseases at the University of Cyprus Medical School, said that care homes had recorded 324 infections in January of which 18 required hospital treatment, and of those 15 were unvaccinated.

Of those 324 overall infections there were seven who died, six of whom were unvaccinated.

She said such data reinforces the need to get vaccinated and particularly with the third dose.

Koliou also pointed to hospitalisations, saying that despite an initial decrease in patients there was another rise and there are still many who are intubated.

As of Monday night, the health ministry said that there were 204 patients in hospital of whom 65 are in serious condition. Of the 65, there were 31 intubated.

“I’m not sure if relaxations are justified yet… but I hope they can be in two to three weeks perhaps”.

She said that the number of people permitted to gather in private residences may be among the first restrictions to be loosened.

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