We are hoping for a milder increase in COVID-19 cases as we are entering the winter months, Professor of Microbiology/Molecular Virology at the University of Nicosia Medical School, Petros Karayiannis, told CNA on Friday, pointing out at the same time that children up to 18 years of age are at risk of COVID infection, due to the low vaccination coverage in the age group.
He said that after the stability in the number of cases, there has been a slight increase over the last few days. “We have reached 200 cases per day, at a time when we were down to two digits. It looks like this has changed. Therefore, we need to be especially careful because we are entering the colder months of winter”, he said.
Asked if there will be an increase in infections over the winter, the Professor said he hoped this increase will be minor. Due to the high vaccination coverage in Cyprus, he said, we can contain any increase and handle it adequately”, adding that this however will depend to a large extent on our behaviour and mainly by the implementation of self-protective measures and protocols at workplaces.
Regarding the Delta+ variant, he said it does not cause great concern although 10-15% more transmissible than Delta. On the other hand, it does not appear to be more deadly yet, looking at the situation in the UK where it is more prevalent and represents 10% of the COVID cases.
It seems that it is being handled sufficiently by vaccines and it still remains a variant of interest but not of concern, he said.
Dr. Karayiannis said higher cases of influenza are expected in the winter. Of course, he added, these can be limited by the self-protection measures we apply as well as other viral infections of the upper respiratory tract. The professor said a “combination of influenza and coronavirus is not a pleasant experience and this is where the danger of the two viruses lies and it is here that we need to be careful and at least protect ourselves against the flu virus by getting the vaccine”.
The problems, he added, are in countries where the vaccination coverage is low, such as Balkan countries, Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine. These countries have a sharp increase in cases with many deaths reported daily.
He also said the vaccination coverage in the northern part of Greece is around 55% and there again the situation is serious.
The high vaccination coverage of about 80% of the adult population in Cyprus, said Dr. Karayiannis, allows us to be somewhat optimistic. He stressed, however, that in children between 12 and 18 years old we have not yet reached these levels, while there is no recommendation for vaccination of children under 12.
Here is where there will be a problem said Dr. Karayiannis and explained that children under 12 at the moment who are not vaccinated can potentially be infected. He also said that if the virus is circulating in a family environment then the children can be infected and take the virus to school or the children can contract the virus from somewhere else and take it to school. Whether there will be a problem or not will become apparent in the coming days and weeks,” he said.
The National Surveillance issued on Friday, said Dr. Karayiannis, showed that children between 10-18 exhibit the highest cumulative incidence. These children are on the go and socialise the most and have the lowest vaccination coverage at present.
He also said that some infections are present at secondary education schools but not in primary schools. Let`s hope things do not change, he added.