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Kostrikis: In three weeks we should return to pre-outbreak epidemiological levels

06/08/2020 10:12

The virus that causes COVID-19 has become more adaptable, Dr. Leondios Kostrikis, Professor of Molecular Biology at the Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Cyprus, has told CNA.

Kostrikis, who is also member of the Ministry of Health’s scientific team, also said that in three weeks Cyprus will return to the epidemiological levels prior to the local outbreak that was observed in Limassol the recent days.

"I hope that two to three weeks following the announcement of the protective measures by the Minister of Health, we will return to the levels we had before" the Professor said, adding that a period of three weeks is enough to stop the chains of infections, provided that citizens take the right measures.

He went on to say that until the introduction of the vaccine, "I would like to see small numbers, close to zero".

Dr. Kostrikis expressed concern about the 25 new COVID-19 cases reported on Wednesday, saying that this is a very high number. But he clarified that most of those cases were traced cases, others were due to travels and others were new cases.

He expressed hope that at the end of this week, beginning of the next week, the results of the measures taken by the Ministry of Health will begin to show leading to a drop of new cases.

Kostrikis said that the number of confirmed cases is increased in all towns. Based on the results of 4,000 random tests that were announced yesterday Nicosia and Paphos have the lowest (0.35%), followed by Famagusta and Larnaca (close to 1%) and finally
Limassol that had the highest (1.2%). Regarding Limassol, he clarified that half of them concern random tests and the other half are people who had contact with confirmed cases and were tested.

Kostrikis said that younger people have been infected with the virus these days but expressed the view that it is a matter of time before the infections are transmitted to older people, urging people to take things seriously and take measures.

The Professor said that the virus has become more adaptable.

"The virus is more adaptable, it adapts easily to humans. When a virus adapts to an organism it becomes less pathogenic and multiplies at a better rate. And this seems to be indicative of the new clinical conditions of the latest infections, that is, people do not have as much pathogenesis as before - it does not send people to hospitals and is more resistant, it takes longer to eradicate the virus from humans," he explained.

Asked if recent COVID-19 confirmed cases constitute the second wave of the pandemic, he said that what we experience in the past few days is a resurgence of the virus in Limassol. I would not define it as second wave at the moment, it is a resurgence or resurgences, he said.

Asked if he believes there would be a new lockdown in case the situation worsens, he said no, adding that if there will be a lockdown, it will not be the same as in March, April, it will be different, for many different reasons, pointing out that Cyprus can not withstand a new lockdown.

Kostrikis said that protection measures announced by the Ministry of Health were balanced and correct, adding that people must learn to implement practices as if there was a lockdown, meaning limiting contacts, wearing masks, etc.

"We do not need to place people in lockdown so that they implement  lockdown policies", he said.

There are for now no indications as to what could happen in autumn, he said, replying to CNA questions and expressed hope that by the end of August Cyprus will return to the numbers it was before the local outbreak in Limassol.

He added that he  would like to see Cyprus return to those levels so that we can continue without any special adjustments for schools.

Asked if schools would close in case there is an increasing number of cases, he said that this is a question he can not answer at this stage. But he said that at the University of Cyprus for example, they will follow a mix model, based on which big lectures will be taught online while smaller classes will take place at lecture rooms.

Regarding the test procedures at the airports, he said that there is room for improvement, while he spoke in favour of joint tests.

If implemented it will be of enormous help, he said, and explained that the reason is to prevent the large number of diagnoses.

"You bring five people together maybe more, you do a joint test, if it is positive you have to do it separately. So this is appropriate in cases where the frequency of positives is low," he added.

Asked if the decision to downgrade Greece to the list of category B countries was the right one, he stressed that we deal with a pandemic and we have to take measures to protect our country. He pointed out that there was an increased number of confirmed cases from people coming from Greece and as a result all passengers coming from Greece have to be tested. Concluding, he said that it is wrong to view this issue as political.