The health minister will convene an extraordinary Covid advisory committee on Monday as nations impose restrictions on travellers from China amid its surge of the virus.
China, undergoing up to a million daily covid infections – according to some analysts, will let people travel more freely from January 8 after being tightly sealed off from the world for three years.
Some experts have expressed concern over the potential for new variants to emerge and spread, with Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela stating that he will soon speak with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) regional director and European partners for further information.
“We thought that these days we would have a bit of peace with the coronavirus and we would focus on hospitals and infections, but it seems we have to look at this issue as well,” he said.
“We are concerned about the fact that China has opened its borders and many people will travel around the world. It’s an issue that has been troubling us at the ministry of health since yesterday.”
The minister emphasised that the variant spreading through China had previously been identified in Cyprus back in August.
“We shouldn’t be too worried at the moment but neither should we be complacent,” Hadjipantela said, adding that he did not want to hold a meeting immediately so as not to cause panic.
He explained that the meeting will instead take place on Monday to give the advisors time to be fully informed.
Notably, the US will require covid tests from those travelling from China, citing the lack of “adequate and transparent” data – as the nation officially reports about just 5,000 cases a day.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said clearer data was needed “to help slow the spread of the virus as we work to identify… any potential new variants that may emerge”.
Speaking at Famagusta general hospital, Hadjipantela added that the ministry had expected the covid situation to remain calm and stable but “it seems like we’ll have to look at this issue as well”.
The European Commission said that its health committee would meet on Thursday to discuss “possible measures for a coordinated EU approach” following China’s reopening amid the covid surge.
Elsewhere, Amalia Hadjiyianni, the scientific director for Larnaca-Famagusta general hospitals, explained that the average length of treatment required for Covid patients has increased.
She explained the aggravating factors as being more infections centered on the upper respiratory tracts, the elderly age of the patients, and comorbidities stemming from other circulating viruses and infections.
Hadjiyianni noted, however, that the situation was manageable.
“At the Famagusta general hospital there are 17 patients of whom two are in ICU, there is a steady rate of admissions to the Covid ward but so far the situation is under control,” she said.
The scientific director emphasised that the ward can be bolstered where and when necessary, according to how the situation develops.
She further explained that at there are 22 patients at the Eden resort in Tersefanou. The centre is serving as an isolation unit for those with covid but unable to isolate at home, with another 11 people isolating at a separate wing.
Hadjiyianni also emphasised the “great importance of wearing a mask in light of respiratory infections”.