NICOSIA – Critics and doctors on Cyprus said the government bungled protocol over two suspected cases of coronavirus that proved negative but involved two Chinese nationals who are permanent residents of the island and had returned from their homeland on flights.
A woman from China who arrived back on Cyprus on Feb. 10 and was suspected of being a carrier of the virus was tested negative later after being taken to the general hospital in the capital of Nicosia but passengers sitting near her were allowed to travel on without tests.
That came after a young man from China who was suspected of being a carrier of the coronavirus also tested negative but no other passengers were quarantined as officials said they had action plans in case a suspected carrier tested positive, said Kathimerini Cyprus in a report.
Petros Agathangelou, the President of Cyprus Medical Association, said protocols should be tightened amid fears the virus could spread even further outside China and with the island having a Chinese population and crowds of refugees and migrants from Asia as well.
He told the newspaper that passengers on the plane sitting near the suspected carrier sould have been taken to a a special room at Larnaca Airport and kept there there until the tests on the woman came back hours later.
State authorities said they followed protocols set by the World Health Organization, pointing out that quarantine for people suspected of catching the virus begins only after a case is confirmed, not just suspected.
But Agathangelou said the “simple protection” that some 20 passengers received in the form of a breathing mask was not adequate.
“At least persons who were in close proximity in the suspected case should have remained in a designated area at the airport’s Arrivals terminal under the proper precautions until tests could come back either negative or positive,” he said.
Hermes, the company that manages the airports in Larnaca and Paphos, has pointed out possible areas that could be turned into special rooms for handling potential coronavirus cases.