Jan 11, 2021 9:27 am Ibrar Younas 2274
Minister: 2nd lockdown will be last resort


Taken from this week's issue





THE government plans to inoculate 60 per cent of the population against Covid-19 by March, with vaccinations beginning by Friday “at the latest”, Health Minister Ali Pilli pledged this week.

His message of hope was tempered, however, by a warning that a second lockdown lasting “15 to 20 days” could be necessary–but stressed that this would be a last resort.

Thousands of people will need to receive the jab each day if the ambitious March target is to be met.

“Health workers and care home residents will be inoculated first, by next Friday at the latest,” Dr Pilli said in an interview with Turkey’s Anadolu Agency.

He added that vaccines produced by the Chinese firmSinovac Biotech are going through a 14-day “control period”after arriving in Turkey on December 30.

The New York Times (NYT) reported yesterday that officials in Brazil said the CoronaVac vaccine was “effective”.

“The vaccine prevented all participants from developing serious and mild complications from the virus, officials said, calling it a highly effective preventive tool,” the NYT reported.

The vaccines will be administered at Lefkoşa State Hospital, the Lefkoşa Emergency Hospital and other health centres around the TRNC, Dr Pilli said.

Focusing on the capacity of the health care system to cope with the pandemic and the continuing local transmission of Covid-19 – despite a raft of new restrictions announced before the New Year and on Monday – Dr Pilli said a lockdown was not off the table.

“If needed, we might impose a lockdown for 15 to 20 days for public health and to end the pandemic in a shorter period of time,” he said, but emphasised that a “full lockdown” was not necessary at present. 

Dr Pilli also said that coronavirus test samples had been sent to Turkey for analysis to see if they contain the new and more contagious strain that has appeared in the UK and other countries, including South Cyprus.

In a separate TV interview on Wednesday night, Dr Pilli announced that an initial batch of 10,000 vaccines will arrive from Turkey following discussions with Turkey’s Health Minister FahrettinKoca. 

Giving more information about the immunisation plan in Parliament on Thursday, Dr Pilli said that the vaccines will arrive “on January 15” but that the date “could change”.

He also accused the EU of “dragging its feet” over plans to provide doses of the Pfizer/BioNTechvaccine to North Cyprus via the South.

Cyprus Turkish Medical Association (KTTB) head ÖzlemGürkuttold Cyprus Today that her organisation will not “approve” the Sinovac vaccine until the US Federal Food and Drug Administration and theEuropean Medicines Agency do so. The vaccine can be administered, however, without KTTB approval if recipients provide “informed consent”, Dr Gürkut added.

“The 14-day trial period is insufficient for a phase-three vaccine to be labelled safe for use,” she told this paper.

“Recipients of the Sinovacvaccine should first give informed consent to vaccinators. The government must make it known that this vaccine is under work and hasn’t completed all of its stages.”

Meanwhile a number of restaurants popular with expats in the Girneregion – where 24Covid-19 cases were confirmed by the Health Ministry on Wednesday and Thursday – closedthis week, either because staff tested positive or as a precaution, while charities and organisations have cancelled activities planned for today. 

Workers at Jessic Bar & Restaurant in Karşıyaka were in quarantine this week after an employee tested positive, the owners announced on Wednesday.

The owner of the Blue Song Restaurant Café and Bar in Lapta announced on New Year’s Day that he had caught Covid-19 and that all family members and staff had been quarantined for 14 days as a precaution.

In comments made to Cyprus Today’s sister newspaper Kıbrıs yesterday, Alsancak Mayor FıratAtaser called on residents to stay at home “for 10 to 15 days”.

Lapta Mayor Mustafa Aktuğ, also speaking to Kıbrıs, said that “two British people living in Karşıyaka” had tested positive for Covid-19 and that one of them had been “going to two bars regularly during the last week”. The owners of the bars in question had closed their premises until Sunday as a precaution, Mr Aktuğ added.

The Help Those With Cancer Association (Tulips) and the Royal British Legion Kyrenia Branch both said that they would not be having stalls at today’s LambousaMarket.

The British Residents Society told its members that it had decided to close its clinics planned for today at the Lambousa Market and the Hut.

On Monday the Merit hotels chain and Les Ambassadeurs hotel and casinoin Girneannounced their “indefinite” closure because of the pandemic.

A statement from Merit Royal general manager AybarsKutluba blamed the move on the government’s decision to cancel quarantine-free entry for tourists staying for three days or less and “ongoing indecision and uncertainty”.

Mr Kutluba accused theauthorities ofmaking decisions that “completely ignore the economy”.

A written statement from Les Ambassadeurs pointed to the “difficulties and uncertainties in the tourism sector”.

The hotel closures came amid a social media outcry over images and video footage that emerged of guests at an unnamed hotel partying on New Year’s Eve, despite a ban on such celebrations,and with social distancing rules apparently ignored.

A KTTB statement expressed “sadness and shock” over the matter and called on “all relevant authorities” to launch an investigation.

Criticism also came from the Cyprus Turkish Secondary School Teachers Union, who said that while the public were only allowed to celebrate the New Year at home in groups of not more than 10 people, the government had “excluded celebrations made at the hotels . . . from these restrictions”.