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MoH: ‘We cannot exclude possibility of Coronavirus reaching Cyprus’

February 6, 2020 at 3:07pm

Minister of Health Constantinos Ioannou assured today that all recommended measures against Coronavirus by the WHO and ECDC are being taken, but the possibility of an incident appearing in Cyprus cannot be excluded due to the limited information available worldwide on the virus and its development.

In statements made following a meeting with the House Committee on Health Affairs on the subject, Ioannou also said that since January 9 when the first Coronavirus incident was confirmed by Chinese authorities the MoH’s Infectious Disease Surveillance Unit has been following the virus’ development and has taken preventive measures.

Measures are primarily targeted at entry points in the Republic, namely checks at airports, ports and the ceasefire line. Strategies have also been put together for the handling of suspected cases, confirmed cases, and the dissemination of information to the public on prevention and to medical professionals on treatment.

“Since day one we have enforced the global authorities’ protocols, informed medical professionals, conducted meetings with authorities at all entry points, monitored that protocols are followed by everyone involved, and the House Committee has been informed accordingly.

“We are all alert, we monitor developments incessantly, and should not panic. However, the virus is out there, it’s in 27 countries and we cannot exclude the possibility that it may appear in Cyprus too because there is limited information available worldwide on the virus and its development,” he said.

Asked about checks at the ceasefire line, Ioannou explained that police are disseminating questionnaires aimed at tracing suspicious symptoms, and if any red flags are spotted the Ambulance Service is immediately called to conduct further checks on the person.

“It is each individual’s responsibility to provide authorities with the correct information so that they can conduct checks properly. For example, we need to make sure as per the WHO’s instructions that each passenger arriving at our airports and ports has not travelled to China in the last 14 days, which for air travel is done through a passenger list provided by airlines.

“However, things get complicated when a passenger has travelled to multiple countries before arriving in Cyprus. In such instances, the passengers have to make sure they inform authorities accordingly, and informational material is provided at all points of entry to make sure they are aware,” the Minister noted.

As regards tomorrow’s informal meeting of EU’s Health Ministers, Ioannou said that it will take place at noon via teleconference.

Ioannou said that according to data available so far, 2% of Coronavirus cases result in death, although he emphasised that information is incomplete because not all incidents have been recorded.

Asked whether public hospitals are in a position to handle a possible incident in Cyprus, he answered in the affirmative reminding of the recent handling of a suspected case last week that was proven to be a false alarm.

“We have appropriate facilities to treat suspected cases at Makario Hospital as well as the General Hospitals of Nicosia and Limassol. I should add here that the protocols activated were not designed exclusively for this virus; we have used them before against epidemics like in the case of Sars and Mers.

“If this develops into a pandemic, the protocol dictates that our private sector will be activated in addition to the public one to manage the crisis. The unification of the public and private sectors currently underway through Gesy will contribute towards that end,” he concluded.

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