The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, warned head of the Scientific Advisory Committee, Constantinos Tsioutis on Saturday and urged young people to get vaccinated to avoid an outbreak similar to that of the British variant which hit Cyprus in March.
In statements to CNA, asked about the Indian strain, Tsioutis said that it has been proven that the Indian strain (Delta) is more infectious from other strains. This means, that it can infect on average, a very large number of people in a shorter time of space. Compared with the British strain, the Alpha strain which caused a serious outbreak, he added, a variant which can be transmitted faster like Delta, can quickly worsen the epidemiological situation.
The positive development, he added, is that the vaccines used are effective towards this strain, especially after the second dose is administered. Similarly, in India, studies have indicated that with vaccination, the spread of the strain can be greatly contained.
Asked about the situation in Cyprus, Tsioutis said that the British strain was located in December last year and despite all restrictive measures, strict airport controls and the compulsory quarantine of people arriving from the UK, in two months it caused the most important outbreak with inpatients surpassing 200 in two weeks.
He also said that now measures are relaxed in most places with freedom of movement and the possibility of having contact with more people. Despite the good meteorological conditions which restrict the virus’ spread, there is still an important risk to catch and spread the virus if an infected person is in the same area with other people, especially if no personal protective measures are taken.
Asked what can be used to curb the spread of the virus, he said the most important are monitoring/tracing, targeted checks, checks at airports, molecular analysis of strains, correct application of protocols, timely intervention when outbreaks are detected and individual protection measures.
Tsioutis said that what the scientists have been emphasising for one and a half years is that simple basic measures that each one can apply are maintaining social distance, avoiding crowded and especially indoor areas, encouraging outdoor gatherings and when indoors ensuring good ventilation, wearing masks, restricting people who are COVID positive and their contacts. These are non-negotiable principles which effectively restrict the coronavirus transmission from person to person and “we should not forget them”.
Vaccines restrict the chances of the virus being transmitted and even if a person is infected and requires hospitalisation, the chances of them passing away are less, he noted.
Asked how important is it for young people to be vaccinated, Tsioutis said the majority of people with COVID-19 are young people from 18-40 years of age. They are the most socially active ages and have a big number of contacts due to social, family and professional activity. These people if infected, have greater chances of being asymptomatic, something which causes a sense of security but increases the danger of transmitting the virus and the more people become infected, the more will end up in hospital. The rate of vaccination in this age group, he added, is very low, something which makes unvaccinated people more prone to becoming infected.
Based on what we know and today’s picture, we must prepare properly for the likelihood of a new outbreak which will be due to the Delta strain and do everything we can to strengthen the three weapons available to us, ie contact tracing, personal protective measures, vaccinations, he said.
Tsioutis underlined “we must make it clear that the pandemic is not over and there is no percentage of vaccination coverage or date that when we reach them will determine the end of the pandemic. Personal protective measures protect us and as long as the virus is transmitted, we need to implement them.”
That is why vaccination works and we need to find ways to strengthen our vaccination programme and increase coverage at all ages, pointed out.