Health minister Constantinos Ioannou was the bearer of unpleasant news on Tuesday, announcing that the current epidemiological situation doesn’t appear to leave room for the planned relaxation of measures from December 14.
Ioannou however stressed that any final decisions are up to the Council of Ministers, who are set to examine the data and agree on the way forward once current measures expire on December 13, with their decisions to affect the holiday period.
Current measures, Ioannou said, aren’t showing signs of effectively limiting the transmission of the virus and restoring indicators to safe levels.
In fact, he said, last week “was the most epidemiologically burdened” since the outbreak of the pandemic, a development that is sending waves of concern across the government and health authorities as the expected epidemiological improvement following the imposition of stricter measures did not come about.
In a period of just seven days, the Republic of Cyprus saw 15 deaths, 2,200 new cases, and dozens of hospital admissions.
Despite the severity of the situation, Ioannou said that in many instances the protocols and guidelines that apply to workplaces and other areas of economic and social activity continue to be flouted.
But overall Ioannou said blame does not lie with the public, noting that “their constant efforts over the past almost 10 months was extremely difficult.”
Vaccine the only solution
"I recognize that the fatigue is immense for everyone, whether it is the public, the government, or the scientific advisory committee, or the officers in the various departments who work endless hours to manage the pandemic," Ioannou said.
However, he stressed that "there is no other solution at the moment", adding that "until a significant percentage of the population is vaccinated, which will greatly help reduce epidemiological indicators, our only option is a more faithful implementation of directives and self-protection measures".
Total lockdown on the table
Discussing the possibility of a renewed total lockdown, the health minister said that all decisions taken so far were public health precautions, while the first total lockdown was imposed at a time when there was minimal knowledge about the pandemic and when time of the essence in order to shield the health system and limit the spread of the virus.
During the second wave of the pandemic, he said focus shifted on to simultaneously controlling the deterioration of the situation, while maintaining the functioning of society and the economy.
“For the time being, Cyprus is the only EU member state that hasn’t re-imposed a total lockdown, but this does not mean that this is off the table,” Ioannou said.
He added that the aim is “to endure as long as possible, without severe restrictions and/or lockdown, until a large percentage of vaccination coverage is achieved".