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As Cyprus Wants UK Visitors, UK COVID-19 Variant Spikes Cases

NICOSIA — Eagerly hoping that the United Kingdom – the biggest source of tourists – will let travelers come to Cyprus, a variant of COVID-19 that appeared in the UK is taking over the island, drawing more worry.

The highly contagious variant is driving a big bump in infections just as the island is opening to visitors from countries deemed relatively safe and having a satisfactory record in dealing with the pandemic.

Cyprus' Health Ministry said all 111 positive samples taken in March and sent to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control were found to be the variant known as B.1.1.7,  reported Reuters.

The results explain a recent spike in infections since the strain is about 50 percent more contagious than the more common COVID-19 strain, the health ministry also said.

An earlier comparison with January and February samples, released in March, showed the British variant accounted for about a quarter of all cases, the news agency's report added.

The numbers of cases had been going down before rising in late February and aren't going down enough to lessen the worry among health officials tracking the epidemiological data.

As of Apri 8, Cyprus had reported a total of 49,988 COVID-19 infections and 268 deaths since the start of the pandemic, not including cases on the Turkish-Cypriot occupied northern third that no country apart from Turkey recognizes.

Cyprus first reported cases of the British variant in early January after tests on positive samples taken in December 2020 and has had a widespread testing system long in place, offering free and compulsory rapid tests once a week for most of the population, the report noted.

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