Cyprus to tighten coronavirus restrictions

NICOSIA, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- Cyprus will apply new stricter measures in its effort to stem the spread of coronavirus, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Friday.

Ioannou told journalists that the new restrictions will be in force between Dec. 1 and Dec. 13 in line with a decision made at an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers earlier in the day.

He said the lockdown already in place in the two coronavirus hotbed cities of Limassol and Paphos will be extended to the whole country after the current containment measures have failed to reduce the number of new COVID-19 infections.

The new measures include the extension of a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew already in force in the two cities to all parts of the country; and a 10 people-limit on guests at weddings, baptism ceremonies, burial services and gatherings in private houses.

Restaurants and other premises where people gather for entertainment will be allowed to operate until 7 p.m., after that on a takeaway basis, Ioannou said.

Malls, department stores and shops will be allowed to operate, provided that there will be no more than one person per 10 square meters.

"Unfortunately, the measures applied in the past two weeks have failed to considerably reduce the number of new infections in Limassol and Paphos, while there has been an increase in infections in other parts of the island," Ioannou said.

He said that if the new measures prove efficient, the authorities will relax them for Christmas and New Year's Eve, otherwise they will remain in force during the holidays.

"If there is a reduction in new infections, gatherings of 10 people in private houses will be allowed and the operation of restaurants will be extended to 10.30 p.m.. Exceptionally, they will be allowed to stay open until 12.30 a.m. on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) and New Year's Eve (Dec. 31), with the ban on movement applying from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.," Ioannou said.

He also said that no spectators will be allowed at athletic events.

The authorities are worried that the public healthcare system could be overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, said the minister

The country's public hospitals are currently operating at about 50 percent capacity, but some of them are nearing their limits.

According to the latest official figures, 109 people are hospitalized, and the total number of coronavirus-related deaths stands at 48.

The Ministry of Health confirmed 220 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections to 9,673 in a population of less than one million.

The first wave of the pandemic was handled successfully in Cyprus, thanks mainly to an abundant supply of consumables and life-support machines delivered by China.

However, new COVID-19 cases began to surge after Cyprus opened its airports and ports to international travel in early July.

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