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In Cyprus, people are flocking to have free antigen rapid tests in areas of the island that have been hard hit by coronavirus transmissions, writes Helena Smith in Nicosia.

After handling the pandemic’s first wave relatively well, the European Union’s easternmost state has seen a surge in cases with the Greek Cypriot government placing the country’s entire south-west under lockdown last Wednesday.

The restrictive measures, including a strict 8pm to 5am curfew, were enforced after infections soared in Limassol and Paphos, with rates leaping from 28% to 70% of the national average. At the time of the ban, two-thirds of Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital were from the area.

As part of the lockdown public gatherings are also prohibited, with all educational institutions being forced to operate online and government employees obliged to work from home.

Mask-wearing schoolchildren leave school in Nicosia

Mask-wearing schoolchildren leave school in Nicosia. Photograph: Helena Smith/The Guardian

“As in other countries, Covid-fatigue is the big problem that we have come to face in recent months,” the island’s minister of education, culture, sports and youth, Prodromos Prodromou, told the Guardian. “There is a lot of complacency among young people in particular and we are seeing a drop in the average age of Covid-19 patients from [age groups of] 60 to 50 in the beginning to 30 to 40 now.”

While teachers had accepted to conduct lessons remotely there has, he said, been fierce opposition from educators conducting online classes visually which has been a problem. “They are willing to be heard, but not seen,” he said.

Museums, archaeological sites, shops, theatres, cinemas, gyms, pools, hairdressers and beauty parlours have also been ordered to close in the region with the government promising aid benefits to alleviate the economic impact.

Officials will review the measures on 30 November.

The Cypriot health ministry confirmed yesterday that a further 127 people had contracted the virus, bringing the total number of cases in the island’s Greek-administered south to 7,178. The death of an 82-year-old woman marked the fortieth fatality since the pandemic began with 14 patients in intensive care in both Famagusta and Nicosia, the war-divided capital.

Mobile units, deployed by the health ministry, are conducting the rapid tests.


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