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Head of scientific committee: Combination of reasons led to recent surge in COVID cases

The recent surge in COVID cases is due to a combination of reasons and it is hard to assess at the moment the duration of the outbreak or its extent, the Head of the scientific committee Constantinos Tsioutis told the Cyprus News Agency. The committee will discuss the developments with President Nicos Anastasiades on Monday afternoon.

Professor Tsioutis told the CNA that the outbreak is because of the lifting of the restrictions which allow for a high number of contacts among citizens, the complacency and the impression that the pandemic is over and also the fatigue following a year and a half living with the pandemic and having gone through three lockdowns.

He also said that the new variants mostly Delta and Alpha have high transmissibility and this is another reason for the hike in cases. Professor Tsioutis also referred to the low percentage in vaccination coverage of the population, especially of those who have a more active social life.

Replying to a question, the Head of the scientific committee said that it is hard to evaluate how long the outbreak will last for or its extent and added that what we can do is to try to curb it, using the means available and our experience so far.

He said that the hygiene measures and the social distancing should be followed by everyone, adding that the protocols in place are also a way to minimize the spread. He also added that the vaccinations minimize the risk of serious illness, of infection, transmission and deaths.

Therefore, he noted, it is up to us to follow these measures and protocols in our everyday lives so that we keep on being safe and not having to worry about new outbreaks.

Replying to a question about new measures and restrictions Professor Tsioutis said that more restrictions or lifting of others is always associated to the epidemiological figures, how these data change, the culture of the people and the strategy in place for dealing with the pandemic.

He explained that for the committee to suggest new measures, they need to see how the situation progresses and to analyze in details all the data available. He added that the picture right now and the data are very different from previous times and “therefore we need to thoroughly analyze and evaluate all the details and make prudent decisions.”

In a question about the use of masks and the fact that some holidaymakers do not wear masks outside, Professor Tsioutis said that the possibility of transmission outdoors is extremely low but advised people to avoid crowded places. He noted that the people responsible for places where people gather should make sure that no conditions of overcrowding exist and that social distancing is practised.

Replying to another question about targeted measures in the tourist industry Professor Tsioutis said that we need to have in mind that community transmission is the reason for the vast majority of the cases on the island and therefore we need to also safeguard that our country is safe for tourist arrivals.

As regards the vaccinations, he said that we knew in advance that the pace would drop once we reached 60% in inoculations and we have seen this happening in other countries as well. He said that scepticism by some people about the vaccinations is basically because of what they read or hear and therefore the authorities should make every effort to modify their approach and the way they communicate the message on vaccinations, in order to meet their concerns, answer their questions in an honest and transparent manner so that we regain their trust.

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