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Additional measures to contain outbreak in Larnaca

23/09/2020 14:23

Leondios Kostrikis, Professor of Virology at the Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Cyprus and member of the epidemiological team of the Health Ministry, told CNA that additional measures to protect people from COVID-19 will be implemented in Larnaca, which is currently at the epicentre of a COVID-19 outbreak. He said that the situation is particularly worrisome, but ruled out the possibility of a lockdown, noting that measures will be of local nature, similar to those implemented in Limassol last August.

Speaking about the test results for a student at the University of Cyprus, who appeared to be COVID-19 positive, he said that the initial test made by government agencies appears to be wrong.

The chain of infections in Larnaca “raises concerns among all members of the scientific committee. We monitor closely the way things evolve and all the scientific team, together with the Minister, we are ready to implement measures in relation to Larnaca, if and when deemed necessary” Dr. Kostrikis added.

Replying to another question, he said that possible measures will be similar to those implemented in Limassol, when there was another outbreak in August. Asked about the nature of these measures, he replied “I cannot tell you exactly, but they will have to do with limiting the number of people in gatherings, the possibility of limiting the number of people in closed and outdoor spaces of restaurants and similar issues.”

Larnaca is now at the epicentre of an outbreak, the member of the epidemiological team went on, adding that there are 57 people across all clusters. There are four big clusters, with the Kition Bishopric being the largest, he explained. There is also a cluster of cases from a restaurant located in Larnaca’s beach front, from a beach hotel and a football team. The latter, he went on, caused a new cluster in a second football team.

Dr. Kostrikis ruled out the possibility of a new lockdown, saying that this scenario is remote and is not deemed to be necessary right now. “We need local measures focusing on the number of people gathering,” he said, adding that measures seem to be observed not as rigorously as before among family contacts or in the professional or social realms “therefore there is an increase in these clusters.”

Commenting on reports about the case of a student from the University of Cyprus, Dr. Kostrikis said that she was never COVID-19 positive and the initial test conducted by government services, indicating the opposite, was wrong.

The sample was tested again at the University of Cyprus Lab and turned out to be COVID-19 negative, which means that the positive test was wrong, he explained. He said moreover that the student repeated the test in a private lab and turned out negative again. Dr. Kostrikis also said that the sample was tested at the University Lab, using his own technique.

Asked to elaborate on his technique, Leondios Kostrikis said that it is based on a patent he developed himself and which was patented in the United States in 2011. This patent was used to diagnose SARS 1, the first virus outbreak, he added. He said that he modified the patent at the University to diagnose SARS 2, while the method was also evaluated by three international organizations with 100% correct results.

Asked if this method may be used more broadly, he replied that this is only used for research purposes. The method ought to be adapted by a biotechnology company, before starting mass production for broader use, he added.

Speaking about the situation in schools, the professor said that there are no serious signs for an outbreak, but said that people should be extremely careful. “The use of mask should not be eliminated for any reason, both for teachers and pupils,” he said, pointing to the latest indications about the efficiency of masks blocking the virus’ transmission.

Asked about his prediction for the coming winter, Dr. Kostrikis said that the transmission of the virus increases, as people tend to stay indoors when it is cold, and this facilitates contagion. The epidemic will be eradicated through vaccination, as was the case with other contagious diseases, he concluded.