Cyprus authorities to announce new measures to contain COVID-19 spread following alarming hike in cases

The Cyprus authorities are set to announce new measures this week to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community due to the worrisome rise in numbers of new cases and admissions in hospitals and the scientists urge for a fresh assessment of the situation.


The Health Minister will be meeting with the epidemiological team on Monday to assess the situation and final decisions are to be taken at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.


Constantinos Tsioutis, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Infection Prevention and Control at the European University, member of the advisory scientific team on COVID-19, has told the Cyprus News Agency that in Limassol and Paphos districts, there is a widespread transmission in the community, which is significantly different from the previous surges that consisted mainly of outbreaks and clusters which were easier to be controlled with targeted measures, early detection and isolation of those infected.


Tsioutis said that in order to control this current outbreak, it is essential to significantly limit contacts.


He explained that until we record an improvement in situation, there will be an increase in hospital admissions because there is always a delay of several weeks between the detection of new cases and the patients who will need hospital treatment. He added that the fact the Cyprus sees an increasing number of patients in hospitals and in ICUs and deaths almost two weeks after the announcement of new measures, means that the authorities need to impose more severe measures, either at country level or where the problem is widely spread.


Tsioutis said that the aim is to stop the transmission, as these data imply that the restriction in close contacts and the individual protection measures were not sufficiently observed by the public.


As regards a general lockdown Dr.Tsioutis told CNA that this would be the option only in the case of uncontrolled spread with deteriorating health indicators, eg hospital admissions, ICU hospitalizations, deaths or increased transmission to vulnerable groups of people.


He said that lockdown restrictions as seen last March when the pandemic broke out, is not a possibility as now most governments around the world have the experience, knowledge and preparedness which allow them to impose targeted measures.


Tsioutis said that targeted measures are based on local epidemiological figures which allow the authorities to take measures with greater efficiency at the lowest possible cost. He explained that the figures are assessed day by day and that so far the steady deterioration of the indicators in combination with the increase of the number of hospital admissions indicate that we need to strengthen the restrictions and take stricter measures.


Replying to a question about the rapid tests, he explained that these are rapid antigen tests, as opposed to rapid antibody tests in the market, which are not considered appropriate means for controlling the pandemic.


He explained that the fast antigen tests have multiple advantages: they give results in 15-30 minutes, they are cheap, easy to use (although they are performed by a trained person on a special platform, they are not as specialized as the RT-PCR molecular test), and have a level of accuracy comparable to the molecular test, with a sensitivity> 94% (ie they identify the most positive) and specificity> 99.5% (ie the positive result means SARS-CoV-2 and not some other pathogen).


They detect specific virus proteins (antigens) that are found in a person`s respiratory system when that person has enough levels of the virus, which indicates the virus is reproducing and therefore the person is contagious.


He said that because of these characteristics, the tests will assist authorities to quickly locate the people who spread the virus and in a timely manner, and so will be useful for early detection of the virus in specific populations and under specific indications, such as those with symptoms, people who reside in areas with increased transmission and in people at high risk of exposure to the virus.


He stressed that the antigen test is not a substitute for molecular testing and therefore requires careful planning in its application and use in specific groups. He added that some cases need to be confirmed by a PCR test.


In another question regarding the use of face masks indoors and outdoors, Dr. Tsioutis said that the literature so far indicates that the use of mask reduces the possibility of transmission from person to person, especially indoors and in crowded places, provided it is applied correctly by everyone.


He explained that trying to quantify its effectiveness as the only measure to control the recent outbreak is difficult as it has been imposed along with a set of other measures. He added that the effectiveness of the use of a mask varies depending on the space and the area.


Replying to another question he said that Cyprus eased the measures in a controlled way based on a detailed plan and taking into consideration all the epidemiological data and figures. He said that this also reflects to the fact that Cyprus’ situation remained among the best in Europe throughout the summer and added that the outbreak of last July was controlled following targeted interventions.


Regarding the options of remote work for decongestion of work places, he recalled that in recent weeks measures were suggested to this end as there have been multiple cases of transmission in the workplace. Tsioutis said that many of these cases would probably have been prevented, if these measures were in place.


Source: Cyprus News Agency

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