A state doctor in Cyprus who was diagnosed with the coronavirus infection on Monday says specialists “discouraged” him from taking a test sooner, while the EU Health Commissioner calls for calm as Cypriot authorities begin tracing the physician’s contacts from last week.
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The first two confirmed cases of the CoVid-19 were announced on Monday in the Republic of Cyprus, with a hospital ward in Nicosia under quarantine after a medical doctor tested positive for the Wuhan bug.
The head of Cardiac Surgery at Nicosia General Hospital, Chrysostomos Kokkinos, was one of two confirmed cases, with Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou telling reporters that the 64-year-old head physician had been on the job for several days after a UK trip.
The minister insisted on state radio that the doctor came back to Cyprus with symptoms and still went to work the next day
Kokkinos traveled to the United Kingdom and returned to Cyprus from Gatwick on an EasyJet flight on March 3. Ioannou said the doctor had gone to work the following day and had been seeing patients normally while initial reports said he developed symptoms of the coronavirus on March 8.
The doctor, who spoke to Philenews on Monday, said he was back on the job on March 4 after he was called in for a medical emergency, adding that he had no symptoms at the time and the UK was not listed as a high risk country. Reports also said he had treated many patients in the days right after his trip.
The health minister told reporters on Monday that a 25-year-old male, who also tested positive on Monday, had been advised at the airport to stay home and away from public areas. He initially tested negative after his arrival from Milan on February 26 and started having symptoms on March 5.
But Ioannou singled out the second case on Monday, saying it was “regrettable” that the doctor had been working at the hospital for several days after getting infected.
“The sad thing about the second case is that even though he returned on March 3, and has since then been showing symptoms, he only yesterday [Sunday] informed us about his symptoms to be tested, so this makes the health ministry’s efforts more difficult in tracing his contacts in the last five days,” the minister said.
Doctor says he reported symptoms, minister says otherwise
But the doctor, who was said to be cooperating with health officials to retrace his past steps, says he had experienced muscle pain on Sunday, which he attributed to exhaustion according to Philenews, adding that he notified in-house infectious disease specialists at Nicosia General.
“He said they discouraged him from taking the test and added that he was tested only after he insisted,” Philenews reported on Monday evening.
But on Tuesday morning, the minister told state radio that the doctor came back to Cyprus with symptoms and went to work the next day.
Health officials said an effort was underway to identify and track down all those with whom the doctor had come in contact in the last few days, including patients, colleagues, medical professionals, fellow passengers, and people in his social circle.
The cardiac surgery department was in lockdown on Monday while reports said members of Nicosia General’s cleaning services staff were refusing to clean the ward in question, citing fears of coronavirus infection.
EU health commissioner calls for calm
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, who spoke with Kathimerini Cyprus on Monday, said “the novel coronavirus reaching Cyprus was expected as COVID-19 had spread throughout Europe and many other countries.”
But Kyriakides also called for calm just hours following the confirmation of the two cases on her native island, telling Kathimerini that she had a phone conversation with the minister but did not share further details.
The health commissioner told Kathimerini the situation was evolving by the day, calling for responsible action and reiterating that “it is important not to panic.”
Story updated with minister's comment on state radio Tuesday morning