Cyprus’ lockdown stance continued to remain unclear following a special meeting between experts and the health minister, with the government hinting thumbs down for a new lockdown citing economic reasons but also thumbs up for stricter measures after hospitalizations reached dangerous levels.
Health experts on the government’s pandemic task force met online Monday with Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou to discuss the situation and come up with multiple scenarios ahead of a crucial President’s Cabinet meeting on Thursday.
While other European countries including Greece announced lockdowns for the early part of January, citing fears of a new highly contagious strain of COVID-19, the Republic of Cyprus has been scrambling to strike a balance with stricter measures short of halting economic activity.
Government spokesperson Kyriacos Koushos said he anticipated possible new measures would be decided and announced on Thursday, while adding that the administration was not in favour of a full lockdown but open to extending current measures beyond January 10.
Koushos dismissed criticism from opposition over ineffective measures during the holidays and said the government took action based on proper planning, adding that coming up with ways to respond to the latest challenges should come first before any blame game.
Cyprus has been scrambling to strike a balance with stricter measures short of halting economic activity
According to Kathimerini Cyprus, additional government measures against the spread of the coronavirus are considered certain ahead of a President’s Cabinet meeting on Thursday.
Kathimerini’s Apostolos Tomaras wrote that the government was under pressure to take “serious decisions” this week, citing epidemiological data that showed a steady high number of cases over the last few days.
Tomaras pointed out that the new strain of the coronavirus, which has been confirmed on the island, as well as a strain in the healthcare system as hospitals were reaching capacity, were all factors to be weighed against economic decisions, made more challenging after the government failed to pass the budget last month.
“The only issue that can give preference to adding tough measures is the conditions within the healthcare system,” Tomaras added, saying the medical community has been monitoring the situation very closely.
On Monday, it was reported that the Famagusta General Hospital, which serves as a referral centre during the pandemic, reached full capacity with all 75 hospital beds occupied.
There were around 180 patients being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals, with some 45 cases described as serious.
But Lakis Palazis, Director of Intensive Care Medicine at Nicosia General Hospital, told Kathimerini that the system could address the needs of COVID-19 patients for now.
Media sources said Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides has been very vocal about warning against tough measures in the business sector.
Back in November, when a lockdown scenario was still open-ended before it was trashed, Petrides had already been warning that the country’s economy was not ready to take another hit in a second lockdown scenario.
“The big question is whether the government will include a lockdown option just like the one last April or consider a milder version,” Tomaras wrote.