After the number of new coronavirus cases detected in Cyprus on Tuesday flew right off the charts, an emergency meeting between the health minister and the government’s coronavirus expert task force agreed to impose stricter rules, including mandatory mask use in all indoor spaces where more than two people are present.
After 62 cases were announced by the health ministry on Tuesday evening, a figure that had already broken the local record for the highest number of cases to be announced in a single day since the outbreak of the pandemic in March, it then moved to announce an additional 21, the majority of which formed part of growing clusters in Limassol, raising the total of the day to 83.
Before cases had even been announced on Tuesday, health minister Constantinos Ioannou had expressed intense concern over what the day’s figure meant for an increasingly worsening coronavirus situation on the island, and announced an emergency meeting would be held on Wednesday morning to find ways of getting back on track.
After Wednesday’s meeting, Ioannou announced that a decision was taken to set stricter rules, including a mandatory face mask use in all indoor spaces, and not only in spaces where a service is being provided for the public.
With daily coronavirus figures beginning to climb higher and higher in the recent period, the health ministry and the members of the coronavirus task force said the majority were a result of multiple chains of infection forming and spiralling out of control at workplaces, where they said coronavirus protocols were poorly implemented, placing public health at risk.
Currently, Limassol is at the epicentre of the coronavirus flare-up, followed by Nicosia, with the health minister recently imposing stricter measures in both districts to match those already imposed on Larnaca and Famagusta, including a 10-person cap on gatherings.
On Wednesday, Ioannou reiterated that “the risk of the situation getting out of control has become evident, and it’s only a matter of time until we lose grip, hospitals fold, and body counts begin,” decrying that “protocols were not and are not being abided by.”
“We also had cases of symptomatic carriers who ignored their symptoms for days, cases were close contacts wouldn’t inform the contact tracing team, and even cases where people tried to outsmart the measures,” Ioannou said, offering as an example cases in which football teams would book fields in other districts, “so that children won’t miss out on their training.”
Such phenomena make efforts to curb the spread of the virus, Ioannou stressed
“I realise that the public is exhausted, we’re all exhausted, so am I, but we don’t have another choice. We’re dealing with a virus, which is here, among us, as it will be for a long time to come, and it is deadly.”
Given that an effective vaccine is not available yet, Ioannou went on, and won’t be available for several months, “the only available treatment is the adherence to social distancing requirements and protocols.”