President Nicos Anastasiades has called an urgent cabinet meeting for Wednesday where the government is set to tighten the recently imposed ‘light’ lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus in Cyprus.
Measures introduced ten days ago have failed to put a stop to a second wave of infections which topped 419 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and five deaths, making it the deadliest day since the pandemic started and with December headed to be worst month to date in containing the virus.
The emergency cabinet meeting will address the alarming rise in cases, with measures expected to be put in force immediately.
The set of measures currently in force, which includes a 9pm curfew and restaurants and bars closing at 7pm, was to come to an end on Monday, December 14, with the introduction of some relaxations ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays.
However, as warned by health officials on a number of occasions, relaxations were subject to Cyprus’ epidemiological picture improving.
“It simply does not seem to be happening right now. We are assessing the situation and analysis of the data and the findings show that there is no room for relaxing measures,” Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said in comments to the Cyprus News Agency on Tuesday.
The alarmingly high number of positive cases over the past couple of weeks did not allow for optimism that measures will be loosened in view of the festive season.
In just the nine days since the government imposed the new measures on 30 November, some 2,903 cases were reported, while another 20 patients lost their lives to COVID-19.
Media reports on Wednesday morning say the government will probably shut down cafes, restaurants and other catering enterprises based on indications that the virus is spreading at such venues.
In comments to the Financial Mirror, an epidemiologist expressed his disappointment with restaurant owners who “in reaction to the new measures, which saw them closing at 7pm, they have even stopped respecting distancing regulations, sitting customers right next to each other”.
Reports also have the cabinet set on shutting schools a week earlier than usual ahead of the festive season and opening later than normal, with Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou suggesting all classes going online for the final few days.
President Anastasiades on Tuesday night met the government’s scientific advisory team together with the ministers of finance, labour, health and education to discuss the alarming situation.
A renewed lockdown in the form implemented in March seems to be off the table at the moment, but with epidemiologists particularly concerned over the spread of the virus in certain districts, could lead to tighter measures being implemented locally.
The Cabinet will meet again on December 23 to revaluate the situation at hand and take decisions on what measures will be in place over Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Cyprus COVID-19 case tally is now 13,286 and 68 deaths.