The number of COVID-19 cases is expected to take a downward trend marking two-digit numbers, said Professor of Microbiology/Molecular Virology at the University of Nicosia Medical School, Dr. Petros Karayiannis.
He also expressed concern that the Indian variant will enter the community through tourists arriving from the UK.
Dr. Karayiannis told CNA that to protect from the Indian variant, the vaccine coverage of the population should reach 80-85% , which is what British scientists recommend.
He welcomed the fact that the island’s epidemiological picture continues to improve, adding that despite the relaxation of measures, things are progressing well. "I hope that with today’s additional relaxation of measures, we will continue to witness a downward trend, said Dr. Karayiannis. This, however, will depend on our behaviour in the next few weeks so that we can completely shield from the virus".
Asked what the situation will be over the summer, the Professor said “we will be at ease” if there is no import of the variants currently present in some countries, mainly the Indian variant which is now present in the UK due to the large Indian community in the country and has made further mutations.
The Indian variant, said Dr. Karayiannis, is 50% more contagious, something which is worrying scientists and that is why they are speeding up vaccination with the second dose of AstraZeneca in an effort to protect the people.
At the moment, the specific variant has not been widely transmitted but there is a fear that it will prevail since its easily transmitted.
That is why they are trying to stop it with more vaccine coverage because it seems to be treated by the vaccines. But we may need to further increase vaccination coverage from 65% to 70% and maybe go up to 80 to 85%. This is what scientists in the UK say. "They are worried about this particular strain and say that the higher the vaccination barrier is, the better," he noted.
Asked what levels we will have reached in the summer, Dr. Karayiannis said that the ideal would be to drop to levels lower than 100. "I believe it is achievable with good behaviour and we are also seeing positive results from the vaccination coverage with the first dose".
"When more people are vaccinated, we might be able to contain it and have two-digit numbers. It will not completely go away due to the population’s movement and tourists expected to visit the island" he said.
Asked if there is a danger the Indian strain enters Cyprus via UK tourists, he said they will come with their vaccine certifications and negative Covid tests. From tests carried out at airports at the moment, said Dr. Karayiannis, it looks like the strain will not enter the island.
Replying to a question if there will be a fourth wave in the Autumn, the professor said no one knows that. I believe our vaccine coverage will be such that we will have reached herd immunity and even higher percentages enabling us to avoid a fourth wave, he pointed out. We might have some small outbreaks but these will be manageable. A new wave will depend on a specific strain becoming problematic and not affected by the vaccines, he added.
Asked if a third vaccine is required, Dr. Karayiannis sad that this is under discussion. "I believe a third dose will boost the existing doses. Currently we do not know how long the immunity from the vaccines will last and it is good to strengthen this barrier against the virus as the third dose vaccines will contain the mutated strains then offering protection against them," he noted.