Health measures rolled out on the island were the topic of conversation on Wednesday morning, as more people who came in contact with a Nicosia-based infected doctor tested negative for the coronavirus.
The Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics has been working around the clock over the last few days, testing at least 185 samples in less than 24 hours to confirm or deny infection including 152 individuals who came in contact with an infected state doctor in Nicosia. Results were announced on Tuesday night.
In an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Cyprus, authorities have taken a number of measures with media reports saying local groups were expressing concern over some of the measures.
In the northern part of the divided island, Turkish Cypriot authorities ordered all schools closed through Monday, while the decision was scheduled to be reevaluated on the weekend. Additional measures were also announced.
Maintenance and health crews were seen disinfecting public areas after a German tourist rested positive, with a group of visitors isolated and three hotels under quarantine enforced by Turkish Cypriot police.
In the south, the government of the Republic of Cyprus ordered most schools in Nicosia district closed until Monday, with critics saying the education ministry had turned down a request for school closings in all districts.
'If a large population gets sick, then hospitals and medical clinics won’t be able to cope or treat all the cases'
Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said the closings were a “precautionary measure” following fears that hundreds of people could have been potentially in a chain of infection after a doctor at Nicosia General Hospital tested positive for the coronavirus.
But the minster dismissed calls for a need to close schools in other districts, while government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos issued a statement saying state authorities were taking measures that could be “as effective as possible.”
A ban on public gatherings of over 75 people was expected to be issued later on Wednesday through an executive order by the Presidential Palace.
But the measure, which includes a ban on a Greek parade on March 25 as well as concerts and other open public events, has been criticized with people taking to social media to question the threshold and describe it as arbitrary.
The government says the number 75 was decided based on guidelines in connection with the coronavirus situation, including risk factors and total population of the island.
President Nicos Anastasiades said church services will be transmitted live through television. Reports said the announcement came following pushback from Archbishop Chrysostomos during a phone call, with the Church saying it could not enforce the ban.
Parents worried about infection chain
According to the Cyprus News Agency, members of a parents association for public kindergartens said there were preschool facilities in parts of Cyprus with over 75 children attending.
“Given the potential presence of people who show symptoms of the virus among pupils and visitors to these kindergartens, it is possible that the virus spread could be made easier,” a statement said.
The organized parents, whose network covers all districts in the south, said their goal was to stop the possibility of spreading the virus and not cause panic.
“We believe that closing all kindergartens nation-wide is necessary so that we can break the chain of the virus infection,” they added.
The government maintained there were economic ramifications to any measures against the coronavirus, including people not being able to go to work because of children staying home, while clarifying the measures would be re-examined on Monday.
Two state hospitals remained closed in Nicosia and Limassol while medical emergency responders remained on standby, with dispatchers receiving hundreds of phone calls every hour on average.
Dispatchers flooded with questions
According to local reports, people have been calling radio stations and the health hotline 1420 to ask questions about the coronavirus, including how long can it survive on a door knob.
Dispatchers also got some weird questions according to Riana Constantinou who oversees the health ministry’s 1420 hotline.
In some cases, Constantinou said dispatchers were asked whether the zodiac sign of a person or ancient Chinese beliefs could have any connection with an infection risk.
A doctor who was a guest on state radio on Wednesday morning said that the coronavirus was not particularly a serious threat to individuals in general but a threat to public health.
“If a large population gets sick, then hospitals and medical clinics won’t be able to cope and treat all the cases,” he said.