Government’s top priority is to protect the citizens’ health, pledges Health Minister

The government’s prime priority is to safeguard the health of all its citizens, said on Friday Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou, who added he would rather take painful decisions no matter how far-fetched they might seem than leave the people unprotected.

Speaking at a press conference at the Health Ministry, Ioannou said that together with his associates, the Unit for Surveillance and Control of Communicable Diseases, along with his colleagues at the State Health Services Organisation, are “doing everything humanly possible to prevent the spread of the virus and safeguard public health».

The measures taken in the last weeks in Cyprus are stricter than the instructions provided by the World Health Organisation and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) he said and urged citizens to continue implementing instructions for self-protection.

“Everyone appreciates that we are fighting an invisible enemy, under tough conditions and in an unprecedented environment. In this fight there will be mistakes and unfortunate moments. We apologize for the inconvenience caused but this dilemma is not a matter of what we like but a matter of life and death”, he said.

A responsible state has an obligation to act to protect its citizens. We will continue to do this for all of our citizens, wherever they are,” he added.

Ioannou said that Cyprus has 126 beds at the ICU units to handle the coronavirus. There are six beds at the Reference Hospital in the Famagusta District, 112 beds at Nicosia General Hospital and eight in Limassol.

The minister said that the government secured additional respirators to be used if necessary. In addition, there are around 80 respirators if needed, adding that the whole plan will be ready for implementation in early April.

Asked about the cost, the Health Minister said that 100 million have been allocated for public health.

He assured that the island’s health system is fully equipped and properly trained to respond sufficiently.

The minister warned that as long as there is an increase of confirmed cases in Europe, the number of cases will rise in Cyprus. He also said that the decree to ban flights will result with a decrease in confirmed cases.

Minister Ioannou urged the citizens to continue implementing self-protection measures. “The following days are decisive in this effort and it will be a shame to destroy everything we have achieved the last few days. Stay home. It is that simple”.

He also said there are cases of non-compliance with the measures the government announced as the Police has reported many such instances.

Regarding those who are placed in quarantine when they return from overseas the Minister said that they need to contribute too. At the same time, he said he is receiving information that these people do not abide by the government measures.

“It is impossible, he added, for the state to police everyone. Each and everyone of us must understand our responsibilities. If those in quarantine do not understand the measures they need to take, I am sorry but we will need to take more drastic measures”, the Minister warned.

Ioannou also urged the citizens to close their ears to rumours, fake news and hype that increase concern.

The minister further said he appreciates and fully acknowledges the parents’ concern about their children who are studying overseas. “I share their concern and accept their criticism. I feel their pain. But I want to tell them our top priority is to secure the health of each and every citizen both individually and collectively”.

He further assured that no one overseas who is facing a serious health problem will be left without help.

Regarding hospitals, he said that the necessary equipment is available and is being used where needed, for instance, ambulance staff which come into contact with confirmed cases.

We were unfortunate that the virus spread through patients inside public hospitals, the minister said, adding that stricter measures have been taken. “We are basically sealing off public hospitals as outpatients’ departments and admissions have stopped operating. Only support services continue their operations such as dialysis and thalassemia units as well as ICU for urgent cases only”, he remarked.

Ioannou said that arrangements had been made with private hospitals in Limassol and Paphos to refer the majority of ICU cases.

Asked if stricter measures will be taken, the Minister said the measures taken in the last six weeks are the strictest and the same ones are being applied in Europe.

“We are evaluating the situation not on a daily basis but on an hourly basis. If and when necessary, in cooperation with the team of scientists already set p, we will take additional measures”, he added.

Answering questions, he said that Cyprus, along with Italy, ranked first in Europe in terms of the number of tests for the coronavirus. As tests are carried out, the likelihood of detecting cases increases statistically, the Minister said, adding that this is also the Ministry`s goal of tracking cases and breaking the virus transmission chain.

Regarding the picture from the statistical data on the coronavirus, the Minister said that the sample is very small in Cyprus. He said, however, on a “global basis, 80% of the people who will catch the virus will exhibit very mild symptoms” while about 3-4% will require intensive care. The same will apply to Cyprus, he added. He also said that the latest data on the mortality rate is 0.5-1%, with numbers constantly changing.

He also said supermarkets and pharmacies can extend their operation hours to serve the public, taking into account their employees’ working rights.

Concluding, the President praised the medical world and health professionals for being on the front line and facing the enemy constantly.

Source: Cyprus News Agency