The top priority at the moment is to ensure the health of each person individually and of the public as a whole, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Friday, stressing that “I prefer to take painful decisions, even if they prove excessive in the end, rather than to remain unprotected.”
Speaking at a press conference, Ioannou said that he, as the Minister responsible for health, along with his co-workers from the Ministry’s epidemiological surveillance unit, the advisory group of scientists, the state health services organization, and the medical community, are “doing everything humanely possibly to prevent the further spread of the virus and to safeguard public health.”
Ioannou noted that Cyprus has for several weeks now been taking stricter measures than those included in the guidelines of the WHO and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
“Everyone understands that we are fighting an invisible enemy, under difficult conditions, without precedent. In this battle mistakes happen, unlucky moments arise. We are sorry for the inconvenience and we apologize for the distress,” Ioannou said, adding that the dilemma is not between what we do and do not want or like, but “between life and death.”
He stressed that “a responsible state is obliged to provide a protective net to its citizens. This is what we will continue to do for all our citizens, wherever they may be.”
Cyprus has 126 ICU beds
The Health Minister said that according to plans in place, the island’s public hospitals will have a total of 126 beds in Intensive Care Units to treat those infected by coronavirus – 112 beds in Nicosia General Hospital, eight in Limassol General, and six in Famagusta General.
Due to the emergency situation, Cyprus has also acquired 80 additional respirators, which will be up and running by April, “when we expect the number of cases to climax.”
So far, Ioannou said, €100million has gone toward ensuring public health, stressing that the Cyprus health system possesses all the necessary equipment and personnel to effectively address the health crisis.
“Expect a rise in confirmed cases”
Ioannou stressed that the next few days are likely to see a surge in confirmed cases, expressing hope that the flight ban to come into force on Saturday will work to curb the rising numbers.
The Health Minister issued a desperate call to the public to strictly follow instructions for their protection against coronavirus, stressing that “it is unfair to destroy everything we have achieved in recent days. Stay home. It’s simple.”
He added that while the government has asked the public to self-isolate and certain businesses to close, “we are seeing many cases of non-compliance and reports are being filed daily.”
Regarding the measure to quarantine those who come from abroad, Ioannou said that they must also show conscientiousness, and follow instructions, as it is impossible for the state to police everyone.
"Everyone must take responsibility and follow orders," he said, adding that "if the men and women in quarantine do not understand the steps they have to take, I am very sorry but we will have to take more drastic measures."
Cyprus second behind Italy in number of tests
The Health Minister said that Cyprus and Italy are conducting the most tests EU-wide in relation to population numbers, noting that they are highly necessary so that the chain of infection can be broken.
Ioannou added that the Ministry is looking into securing alternative labs in Limassol and Nicosia hospitals to assist the CING.
On Thursday alone, the CING conducted around 400 lab tests for coronavirus, while efforts are being made to secure a machine from the US which is able to conduct around 1,000 tests every day.
The Minister also assured that there is no medicine shortages in Cyprus.
For businesses that operate, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, Ioannou said they can extend their working hours to serve the public, but with respect to the labor rights of their employees.