NICOSIA – With the number of cases of the dreaded COVID-19 Coronavirus quickly spiking to 26, Cyprus’ government – assailed by critics for not doing enough to prevent the spread – said it expects many more but said it’s dealing with the phenomenon.
The number includes five on the Turkish-occupied northern third with Cypriots calling for strong measures, said the Cyprus Mail although government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos, noting more are expected that, “The situation is under full control.”
“A large percentage of our population will fall ill,” he said. “We can tackle it, provided the rise is controlled,” he added although the government didn’t shut down shopping malls, restaurants, bars, cafes and other public gathering places where the disease could easily spread.
President Nicos Anastasiades announced a range of stricter measures, including closing the airports except for residents, having already closed crossing points to the occupied side despite protests against that. Schools are also shut until April 10.
Koushos said measures were put in place on the basis of epidemiological data, the paper said, adding that, “We follow the experts’ views and advice,” although that had included closing places where the public gather, which wasn’t done.
“I must note that Cyprus is among the first countries that enforced the most drastic measures and if necessary… further measures will be put in place,” he said and that he expected the government could deal with it as thousands of Cypriots abroad return for Easter.
“Yes, the system can hold. This decision was not taken without expert views,” he insisted, adding that students abroad who return will have to put themselves in isolation, although it wasn’t said how that could be enforced.
A student organization urged Cypriots studying abroad not to return for Easter in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19 but Koushos said that couldn’t be mandated. “We are not a state without sensitivities; we are not an autocratic state. Students are also our citizens.”
Paphos Hospital on the south of the island shut down for two days for disinfection after a patient tested positive for the disease, and visitors were banned, while the tracing of staff and others who may have been in contact with the confirmed case was underway to find them.