The further easing of Covid-19 restrictions should take place over the course of weeks, not months, one of the government’s advisors said on Tuesday emphasising the need to learn to live with the virus.
Epidemiologist Michalis Voniatis said that despite a high number of infections there has not been a rise in hospitalisations.
“We must be realistic and realise that we are going to live with the coronavirus, there will be infections,” he told Sigma, adding that those who we must protect – the elderly and vulnerable – have already been majority vaccinated and they must continue to have high levels of protection.
“My opinion is that, yes, we should slowly-slowly proceed with further relaxations – the slowly-slowly does not mean a matter of months but in the coming weeks,” Voniatis said.
He reasoned that relaxations were only possible due to the high vaccination coverage, adding that there was still doubt among some experts as to what extent Omicron is milder than previous variants, notably Delta.
Voniatis laid out the argument made by some that if Omicron is milder than Delta that it is because it came up against a highly vaccinated population.
Asked about the increasing number of countries lifting Covid-19 mandates – “are they witnessing a different evolution of the pandemic?” – Voniatis replied that they have seen that the record infections are not resulting in a burdening of the healthcare systems.
“That means that we will have to live with a situation in which there will be a considerable number of infections but without severe illnesses because we have already protected the vulnerable,” he said.
But fellow government advisor Petros Karayiannis struck a more cautious tone, saying that time is needed to assess what impact the latest change to the measures may have on the epidemiological situation.
He referenced the policy change that will see the scrapping of mandatory PCR tests for passengers arriving in Cyprus from March 1.
Karayiannis said that the further tweaking of the measures – hinting at March 15, when the current ones are set to expire – may not be relaxations exactly but a revaluation of the process overall.
“Efforts are underway to simplify the protocols,” he said, reiterating that the government is discussing the process of categorising venues and activities according to the danger they are deemed to pose in terms of Covid-19.
The proposals are due to be tabled at the upcoming cabinet meeting next Thursday.
Some have bemoaned what they view as the “dragging out” of Covid-19 restrictions particularly as many nations no longer consider the virus a critical threat to society.