New measures to reward vaccinated citizens in the Republic of Cyprus are to be decided in a Cabinet meeting on Friday following a sevenfold increase in daily COVID cases, with the government seeking ways to punish those who refuse to get the jab.
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According to local media, a partial Cabinet brainstormed ideas on Wednesday to boost vaccination rates on the island, with the government said to be in favor of COVID-free zones as well as the reintroduction of Safe Pass in crowded outdoor spaces, such as open-air cafes.
Health officials on Friday said about 40% of recent daily cases were teenagers, with critics saying many youngsters were violating health protocols such as congregating in crowded areas and sharing their flavored-tobacco hookahs at water pipe cafés.
Local media also reported that tests amongst high school students were coming back positive following graduation parties last month, while also noting the termination of rapid tests in schools due to the summer break.
The Republic of Cyprus does not provide official data on the number of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons who test positive for the novel coronavirus, including the Delta variant
But health experts on the government’s pandemic task force point to unvaccinated numbers within the population as being high, saying previously-set goals had been reached but the situation has changed due to the rampant Delta variant now affecting local communities on the island and nearly 100 countries around the world.
Daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 surpassed the 400 mark late this week, a sevenfold increase from just ten days ago. Thursday’s official numbers included 473 new infections, no deaths linked to the coronavirus, and a positivity rate standing at 1.26%.
New measures aimed at boosting vaccination rates are expected to be announced following a Cabinet meeting scheduled for Friday evening.
In addition to COVID free zones and Safe Pass for outdoor cafés, the government is also considering other incentives for vaccinations including granting honorary leaves of absence to conscripts who plan to take the jab.
There are also counterincentives under consideration that would penalize those unvaccinated by choice, such as withdrawing tax-payer money from funds to cover the costs of rapid tests for obtaining a Safe Pass for a social outing or going to work.
Additional measures may include incentivizing businesses to require more frequent rapid tests as well as making it easier for them to reward employees who choose to forgo weekly tests by getting vaccinated.
Holiday discounts for Covid-free hotels are also being considered for businesses who decide to serve only vaccinated customers.
The Republic of Cyprus does not provide official data on the number of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons who test positive for the novel coronavirus, including the Delta variant also known as Indian mutation.
It is also unclear whether vaccinated persons were being tested after being identified as close contacts of infected individuals. An official on state radio Friday morning suggested such tests were being arranged.
A recent health ministry decree urged -but did not require- vaccinated persons to take a PCR test if they were identified as close contacts of known infected persons.
Concern over vaccinated infections up overseas
Concern over vaccinated infections went up overseas, after a rise in COVID cases was recorded in countries with higher percentage of vaccinations, such as the UK and Israel.
Last week, according to Israeli media, about half of adults infected in the country’s recent Delta outbreak were fully inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine, prompting the government to re-issue mandates for indoor use of face masks regardless of vaccination status.
But Cypriot officials said they did not favor additional measures that could restrict the freedom of those who got the vaccine, choosing instead to focus on incentives and counterincentives for getting the jab.
Government officials and health experts in Cyprus have argued that getting vaccinations up to 80% of the population would be sufficient to reach herd immunity against the Delta variant, adding this would be the only way to return quickly back to normality.