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12° Nicosia,
17 January, 2022
 
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Cypriot experts dissent from government decisions

Scientists say politicians are ignoring data and concerns over a rise in numbers of vaccinated virus spreaders

Newsroom

A frustrated local epidemiologist in Cyprus is calling on the government to reevaluate its latest response to the pandemic, saying politicians are ignoring local data on how vaccinated persons continue to spread the coronavirus.

Field epidemiologist Valentinos Silvestros says COVID-19 infections remain a concern among vaccinated individuals as many people who got the jab tend to let their guard down thus increasing chances of transmission.

Silvestros, who coordinates contact tracing at the health ministry, spoke on state radio Wednesday morning, saying vaccination alone could not protect persons from close contact with others.

“Whether or not people [who are vaccinated] get infected is not determined by their vaccination status because this is something ultimately judged by the nature of their contact,” Silvestros said.

Whether or not people get infected is not determined by their vaccination status because this is something ultimately judged by the nature of their contact

The expert, who says local scientists have shared new findings with government officials, argued that the nature of contact between people was more a determinative factor that could lead to infection, more so than vaccination status.

“Transmission from increased contact cannot be blocked by the vaccine,” he said, adding that his team was still having difficulty with tracking down individuals who may have been in close contact with infected persons.

Many vaccinated persons were traveling abroad and not getting tested for the bug, Silvestros said.

“We have the data, the government needs to reevaluate measures,” he added.

More voices calling on government to rethink approach

Silvestros made his comments days after Cyprus’ top expert went public with similar concerns.

Constantinos Tsioutis, who heads a task force of health experts advising the government on the pandemic, showed publicly his dissent last week from a government decision not to mandate rapid tests for the vaccinated.

Tsioutis, who heads the Cypriot government’s advisory team on pandemic response, went public with concerns that the coronavirus was still being spread despite vaccination strategies and Safe Pass restrictions.

The top expert said it was time for measures to evolve so that frequent rapid tests would apply to vaccinated people, following reports that many who get the jab tend to play down symptoms and carry on normally due to a false sense of security.

Government needs to look at local data 

Silvestros agrees with the assessment, saying local scientists have actual data to back it up and argued that officials have received the information and ought to reevaluate their plan of action.

Current measures recommend but do not require vaccinated persons to test for the coronavirus, while unvaccinated persons must take a rapid test valid for 72 hours before using a Safe Pass to visit most places, such as supermarkets, coffee shops, and bakeries.

According to health ministry data, 71 patients were currently receiving treatment in public hospitals, 22 of whom were in serious condition including 6 being intubated, 2 in intensive care but not hooked up to a ventilator, 14 others requiring around-the-clock treatment, and one post-covid patient.

The health ministry said 63.39% of the patients had no vaccination history but did not specify whether or how many of those seriously ill were unvaccinated.

Tsioutis said 30% of confirmed cases on a daily basis were fully vaccinated persons, while that number reached 40% among hospitalized patients.

But things did not add up for Tsioutis, who told Philenews this week that scientists were concerned over a rate drop amongst confirmed cases without symptoms.

“The current assessment is that because the unvaccinated undergo rapid tests to obtain a Safe Pass, the asymptomatic cases in question are not being traced in time but instead go on to transmit the bug, and there are vaccinated individuals among them,” he was quoted as saying.

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