By Gina Agapiou and Jonathan Shkurko

Cypriots will celebrate Christmas and New Year without Covid-19 restrictions for the first time since the pandemic outbreak on the island.

Health ministry spokesman Constantinos Athanasiou ruled out any possibility of reintroducing measures in view of the holidays, stressing that the ministry will instead issue some recommendations ahead of Christmas.

Beyond those simple recommendations, there is individual responsibility, Athanasiou told the Cyprus News Agency on Friday.

The use of face masks and presentation of negative Covid test remain obligatory in hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities treating vulnerable people.

His statements come before the scheduled meeting of the health minister with the scientific advisors on Monday to assess the national epidemiological situation. The meeting will take place at 3pm at the health ministry, after which the recommendations will be announced.

Athanasiou said there has been a decrease in the positivity rate and hospitalisations for the week of December 9 to 15 during which 3,460 infections were traced from 70,657 tests, a positivity rate of 4.9 per cent. There were 77 people in hospitals with the virus, of whom nine were in serious condition.

During the week four people died from coronavirus, two men aged 90 and 89, and two women, aged 82 and 89.

Also included in this week’s figures are a man and woman, aged 72 and 75 who died on December 8, while the deaths of a 71-year-old man and a 71-year-old woman in October and December 2021 were also attributed to Covid-19.

The new fatalities raised the total number of deaths since the pandemic outbreak on the island at 1,250.

A total of 64 infections were detected in nursing homes from 5,196 tests. A further 23 new Covid-19 cases were detected in 24/7 facilities from 2,461 tests.

The positivity rate for the 2,034 PCR tests carried out over the past seven days was calculated at 7.96 per cent with 162 cases detected, while the positivity rate for the 68,623 rapid tests was 4.81 per cent with 3,298 cases detected.

Some increase in cases is expected over the holidays, Athanasiou said, noting however, this should not be a concern.

As regards vaccinations, the health ministry spokesman said over 24,000 people were jabbed in just one and a half month between November 1 and December 14. He added that people are showing increased interest with teams carrying out about 600 to 700 vaccinations daily.

Last year, venues such as bars and restaurants were forbidden from hosting any events over the holidays while Christmas celebrations were cancelled in schools. Other events had to be approved by the health ministry and follow coronavirus protocols.