Entrance to hospitals, care homes and closed facilities will require a 24 rather than a 48-hour rapid test result as from Monday, Cabinet decided on Thursday, adopting proposals submitted by the health minister after consultations with the scientific advisors aiming to stem a surge in coronavirus infections.

Cabinet also decided to operate testing centres outside public hospitals in all districts, to extend the eligibility for the second booster shot to other groups of individuals with underlying health issues and to set up a ministerial committee to carry out a study to install ventilation systems at schools and public buildings.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela and the team of epidemiologists decided against tighter measures, opting instead for some minor changes, given that despite the rise in the number of hospitalisations, the situation remains under control.

In an announcement after cabinet’s meeting, the health ministry cited the increased transmissibility of sub-variants BA.4 and ΒΑ.5, the prevalence of which in the community is currently 90 percent.

The proposals submitted to cabinet concern high risk places and monitoring in an effort to curb the spread of the virus and safeguard public health, it said.

Cabinet decided that as from July 18, visits to patients in public and private hospitals and residents of care homes be limited to a maximum of two people a day.

They must show a 24-hour Rapid test or a 48-hour PCR test. The requirement is for everyone aged six and over. Visits are restricted to one person per visit, but in exceptionally urgent cases, the number of visitors and visits can be higher, contingent on approval by hospital management.

The council of ministers also decided to expand eligibility for the second booster dose with an MRNA vaccine to people with the following serious underlying medical conditions –serious, chronic respiratory disease, serious chronic heart and vascular disease, serious chronic kidney disease, serious chronic liver disease, serious chronic neurological disease and hemoglobinopathies. This is provided five months have passed from the first booster dose (third jab).

Finally, it was decided to set up a committee made up of the minsters of health, transport, labour and education for a study regarding the installation of ventilation systems at schools and public buildings.

The health ministry urged everyone to adhere to personal protection measures (mask, distancing and hand hygiene) and recommended that irrespective of vaccination history, everyone carries out a self-test before visiting crowded areas as well as a self-test or rapid test once a week.