What's Behind Cyprus' COVID-19 Jump? Vaccination Refusers

Αssociated Press

A woman wearing protective face mask drives her bicycle by closed shops amid COVID-19 pandemic restrictions government in central capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, May 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA -- As COVID-19 cases on Cyprus soared past 6,500 in two weeks – some 850 a day – health officials said it's being driven by more than half of those aged 20-59 refusing to be vaccinated, and they're not being required to.

More than 65 percent of the population has received one of two shots of most versions, but until they are fully vaccinated the pandemic can't be beaten back and there are still large numbers who refuse, as in many countries.

Germany's state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reviewed the situation about why the young especially don't want to be protected from the Coronavirus, with many deniers doubting science and disbelieving the shots are safe and effective although evidence shows they have worked against the dreaded virus.

The low vaccination rate has kept Cyprus in the dangerous Red category set by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, indicating there is a risky situation on the island.

Dr. Zoi Dorothea Pana, member of the Advisory Scientific Committee on COVID-19, told DW that "indeed, during this period, Cyprus' epidemiological situation seems to have worsened. However, the test positivity rate and the cumulative incidence is partially influenced by the fact that Cyprus performs a significantly higher daily number of tests in relation to total population." 

Average daily testing ranges between 40,000 to 60,000, while the country's population is approximately 900,000 people. Pulmonologist Dr. Charis Armeftis also linked Cyprus' red categorization to its high levels of testing, explaining to DW that Cyprus is one of the European countries carrying out the most tests for COVID-19 relative to population size. 

He said that Cyprus' positivity rate is only 1.4 percent, similar to some other countries who haven't been declared Red, a designation which hampers tourism that's especially critical for the economy.

But he noted that 90 percent of hospitalized patients are unvaccinated, and that includes a lot of young people, the rise in cases leading the government to adopt more heath restrictions and measures.

That includes a so-called "SafePass" policy in place since July 9 requiring all those 12 or older to have a vaccination certificate showing one does – which doesn't fully work to protect them – a negative PCR or rapid test within a 72-hour window or proof of having recovered from the Coronavirus.

The SafePass must be presented by employees and customers in any facility and  free rapid antigen tests will be abolished as of August 1 to squeeze people to be vaccinated or pay for a PCR or rapid test every 72 hours.

The Safe Pass hasn't drawn much resistance from workers or businesses, the report said, although catering establishments such as restaurants, cafeterias, bars don't want to be forced to check all their customers and employees.