Health experts fear spread of Delta variant may torpedo the tourist season

Spike in Cyprus cases fuels fears of new Covid wave

Spike in Cyprus cases fuels fears of new Covid wave

Hospitalizations among the young are on the rise, but vaccine uptake is low

Daily Covid-19 cases across Cyprus increased nearly twofold - from 67 to 122 – in just two days between Monday and Tuesday, fuelling fears of a fourth wave in the autumn caused by the rampant Delta variant and prompting pleas to the young to get the jab as soon as possible.

Younger people increasingly hospitalized

70 per cent of positive tests belong to people below the age of 40, the health ministry announced yesterday. Only four per cent of this group are fully vaccinated, 16 per cent have received their first dose and the remaining 80 per cent have no history of vaccination.

The health ministry also reported that in recent days there has been a rise in hospital admissions among younger people. Over 90 per cent of those hospitalised for Covid-19 are unvaccinated, which leads to the assumption that the Delta variant is already spreading in the community.

Europe in the throes of Delta

The surge in case numbers follows a similar trend recently seen in other countries, including Israel, the UK and Portugal, where the capital Lisbon had to be placed under a snap lockdown. The Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned yesterday that the Delta variant, which originated in India, will spread all over Europe this summer, with 90 percent of new Covid-19 cases expected to be related to it by the end of August. ECDC director Andrea Ammon said in a statement that Delta is likely to circulate widely especially among younger people who are not a vaccination priority, posing risks for the more vulnerable, unvaccinated people to become infected and hospitalized.

The rise in both cases and hospitalisations across the island has been blamed on a combination of relaxed restrictions ahead of the tourist season, low vaccine take-up among younger people, and a carefree attitude towards personal protection measures and social distancing.

Ringing alarm bells

Petros Karayiannis, professor of microbiology/molecular virology at the University of Nicosia Medical School found the increase “shocking” and ringing alarm bells. He told the Cyprus News Agency that further relaxations may cause things getting out of control and repeated statements by fellow members of the advisory committee and Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou that vaccination is the most effective weapon against the virus.

Younger people avoid getting jabbed thinking they can escape the virus or experience only mild symptoms, failing to realize that they will become virus carriers which will fast-track the infection to relatives and co-workers. Since Friday, the vaccination portal has opened to everyone over the age of 18, but appointment bookings have been low.

The overall vaccination rate in Cyprus is coming close to the 65 per cent target set by the health ministry, but this achievement has been offset by low vaccine uptake among the young. Only 25.8 per cent of 18–21-year-olds and 32.9 per cent of 20–29-year-olds have received at least one dose.

Karayiannis speculated that the more transmissible Delta variant, which has been detected from airport checks, but also found in people not travelling, could deal a blow to the struggling tourist industry by preventing Cyprus from ever reaching “green” status this summer. In this regard, he recommended stricter border controls and increased random testing at airports.

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