Data collected so far on the island’s unfolding coronavirus pandemic indicate that the Cyprus government can move into the second phase of the gradual relaxation of restriction measures, member of the scientific group advising the government, Constantinos Tsioutis said Wednesday.
Current data suggests “we have no reason to believe this will not happen”, he said.
Tsioutis highlighted that the epidemiological picture remains good, with low numbers of new cases, despite being in the second week since the first relaxation of measures was launched on May 4.
A better evaluation of the course of the epidemic is expected to be made by the end of the week, Tsioutis said, when deliberations will come into full swing over the safety of moving on with plans to launch the second relaxation of measures on May 21.
Tsioutis added that the committee of scientists consulting the government has set a number of epidemiological indicators which will help it objectively evaluate the course of the epidemic, noting that if any indicator raises concern the relaxation of some measures could be postponed.
A decisive point in further lifting the measures, he said, will be the committee’s meeting on Friday with President Anastasiades, where the first evaluation since the island entered phase one, as well as an in-depth discussion of what will constitute phase two, will take place.
Referring to the hot topic of the reopening of schools, Tsioutis said that while schools are a sensitive area and special care is required, he noted that findings from the island’s outbreak and from overseas have shown that the virus is relatively uncommon among children.
“But we have to continue monitoring closely, and in the event that cases are detected or problems increase, we have prepared several procedures that will be enforced immediately to prevent the further transmission of the virus.”
What we need to do, he added, is to learn how to live with the virus.
"What we are doing now and what we are learning is how to boost our readiness for a potential second wave in the fall,” Tsioutis said, noting that it is difficult to predict its magnitude.
With summer weather already making its appearance, as temperatures are expected to reach as high as 40 degrees Celsius this week, debate has been ongoing on whether the heat may work to stop the virus in its tracks.
But Tsioutis, and the World Health Organization in an announcement on Tuesday, said this is likely not the case.
Tsioutis acknowledged that coronavirus has indicated a sensitivity to climatic conditions, but stressed that the summer heat will likely not affect the virus’ transmissibility.
Similarly, the WHO on Tuesday said that not only will summer heatwaves not curb the spread of the virus, but it will pose increased risks, particularly among vulnerable groups, of both infection and health conditions associated with exposure to extreme heat.
“For much of the WHO European Region, we need to be prepared for a long, hot summer. Weather services are expecting the coming summer to be warmer and drier than usual in the Region,” the WHO said, adding that “this is particularly important this year due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak compounding issues caused by extended periods of hot weather, while many people, including groups particularly vulnerable to both the infection and heat, might be advised or required to remain at home as potential lockdowns are in place.”