Greece and Cyprus see record high COVID cases from Omicron –

Greece and Cyprus have reported all-time highs in the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in a day, mainly due to the spread of the Omicron variant.

Cyprus on Tuesday recorded a single-day record high of COVID-19 infections since the virus was first identified on the island in March 2020, data showed on Tuesday.

The island reported 2,241 infections on Tuesday, up from 1,925 a day before. To date, there have been 154,926 cases reported and 630 deaths.

“I think this is due to the Omicron variant, which may have arrived earlier than we thought,” said Petros Karayiannis, professor of microbiology and molecular virology at the medical school of the University of Nicosia and a member of a scientific advisory committee to the government.

Cyprus reported its first case of the Omicron variant on Dec. 10. Health experts believe Omicron is more contagious than earlier strains of the coronavirus, but two studies in the past week suggest that those affected are less likely to require hospital treatment.

“Possibly, without having more data, it is due to the Omicron variant which seems to trigger a milder infection,” Karayiannis was quoted as telling the semi-official Cyprus News Agency (CNA).

Authorities were to review the situation on Wednesday. The number of people on the island who have taken both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine has exceeded 80 percent.

Greece also reported a new daily record of 21,657 COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, more than double the level of the day before.

“Omicron prevails, so we should be prepared and this should not cause panic,” Greek health minister Thanos Plevris told state TV ERT.

The country had reported 9,284 cases on Monday, when the government announced tighter curbs would be put in place from Jan. 3 to Jan. 16 to contain infections, targeting mainly night-time entertainment venues.

Authorities had also tightened curbs last week, mandating masks in open spaces and banning Christmas and New Year festivities in public places.

Greece, which weathered the first wave of the pandemic last year in relatively better shape than some other European countries, has been grappling with a surge in infections in recent weeks that has put a strain on its healthcare system.

There have been a total of 1,105,885 COVID-19 infections in the country since the pandemic began, and the death toll stands at 20,557.

Under the new rules set to start from next week, bars and restaurants will have to close ad midnight, no standing customers will be allowed, and a maximum of six per table will be enforced.

“If we find that these measures are not complied with we will ban music (at entertainment venues),” Health Minister Thanos Plevris told a news conference.

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