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NICOSIA, Nov. 24 (Reuters) – Cyprus will include children as young as six in its COVID-19 screening program and introduce mandatory masks in schools to ward off a wave of the virus, authorities said on Wednesday.
In the eastern Mediterranean island, as elsewhere in Europe, cases of the Delta strain of the coronavirus have risen in the past month. By the end of Tuesday, authorities had registered 131,028 cases since the pandemic broke out in March 2020, along with 590 deaths.
From Nov. 29, children aged 6-11 must be screened weekly for COVID-19 and wearing masks will be mandatory, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas said.
A “secure pass,” which is a proof of vaccination, is no longer valid from December 18 if seven months have passed since a person’s initial vaccination dose and they have not received a booster shot.
Protection against the vaccines usually wears off after a few months and while the injections significantly reduce the risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, they do not prevent viral transmission or reinfection.
“Only through cooperation and individual responsibility can we overcome the threat of this virus and save Christmas without imposing additional measures,” Hadjipantelas said in a statement.
Cyprus introduced widespread restrictions on unvaccinated individuals – an estimated 20 percent of the population – in August. The government required drug-free individuals to be tested every 72 hours to gain access to establishments ranging from bakeries and supermarkets to banks and public services.
Self-test kits will be made available to the public from December 13, with unvaccinated individuals having to pay for the service.
Reporting by Michele Kambas Editing by Mark Heinrich
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