The President’s Cabinet is expected on Thursday to announce a way forward ahead of Greek Orthodox Holy Week, with the health minister not favoring tougher pandemic measures but also warning a lockdown was not off the table.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou warned of a “clear and present danger” amid an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, calling on members of the public to cooperate and follow all guidelines and protocols.
Local media on Tuesday painted a chaotic picture at the state hospitals, including Limassol General where over a dozen patients in short stay areas were receiving treatment including oxygen on chairs and even wheeled stretchers.
Andreas Kosti, director for a Covid recovery ward at Limassol General Hospital, was quoted in Philenews saying fatigue was pushing the healthcare system one step before collapse.
Local media painted a chaotic picture in state hospitals, where patients in short stay areas were receiving treatment including oxygen on chairs and even wheeled stretchers
“Up until yesterday on the fifth floor at Limassol General Hospital there was one hospital bed available, which is always kept for safety emergencies in all medical centers,” Kosti said on Wednesday.
Health officials on Thursday morning clarified that patients receiving oxygen treatment in short stay areas within recovery wards were being assessed as to whether they needed to be assigned to a bed, adding that there were periods where more patients could be seen at the same time.
But according to the Cyprus News Agency, Ioannou warned on Wednesday evening, ahead of a Cabinet meeting scheduled the following day, that the possibility of a lockdown was “an option that remains on the table.”
The health minister stopped short of saying a lockdown was high on the agenda, noting instead that the government wanted to exhaust all other options before resorting to a “harsh” universal lockdown.
“If we reach the point where we no longer have enough beds or medical staff to take care of our patients, we will automatically lose control and we will live through situations we had seen in other countries where medics were forced to choose which lives to save,” Ioannou told CNA.
Health ministry officials announced on Wednesday 843 new coronavirus cases with the overall positivity rate in the Republic rising to 1.59% and bringing the total number of cases since the outbreak of the pandemic to 58,865.
Experts advising the government on the pandemic have warned the administration not to relax measures during Greek Orthodox Holy Week, while reports said some relaxations were nto ruled out for specific Holy Days, such as Holy Saturday.
Other Easter measures may be decided on church services during Holy Week, with experts saying the suggestion was to encourage worshippers to stay in the courtyard and outdoor areas.
But Ioannou admitted to CNA that hospitals are treating younger people, who were healthy individuals in most cases and fell ill because “they did not pay enough attention or because they became too relaxed and forgot about basic personal protection measures.”
“We can’t afford to lose human lives” the health minister added.
The Cabinet is expected to meet Thursday morning at 11am at the Presidential Palace, where it is expected to extend current measures and restrictions at least for two more weeks, according to local reports.