ATHENS (Reuters) – A heart surgeon testing positive for coronavirus prompted Cyprus to suspend admissions to its largest medical facility, close schools and ban large church services in a sweeping response on Tuesday.
The 64-year-old surgeon, who headed up the cardiology ward at Nicosia General hospital, was one of the first two coronavirus cases diagnosed in Cyprus on Monday. He had recently returned from Britain.
By early Tuesday authorities were tracing about 150 people he had come into contact with, including patients and other medical personnel. He had gone to work regularly until his diagnosis.
The Health Ministry said the hospital halted all admissions, outpatient clinics, surgeries and visits for 48 hours and said it would gradually discharge or move patients from the heart surgery ward, where the doctor worked.
“What happened to us was probably the worst scenario,” Constantinos Ioannou, health minister of the divided island’s internationally recognized government, told Sigma TV.
The doctor told Cyprus’s Phileleftheros newspaper he returned asymptomatic from Britain on March 3, when he was also called to attend an emergency at the hospital. He said he was feeling fine until March 8, when he felt muscle pain.
According to Phileleftheros, virologists discouraged him from getting tested because Britain was not a high-risk country, but the surgeon insisted
Authorities said schools in the capital Nicosia would be shut for three days and assemblies of more than 75 persons, including church services, would be banned.
Cyprus’s soccer ruling body, the CFA, announced fixtures would be closed to spectators, while universities on both sides of the war-split island said they would be suspending classes.
Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek Cypriot coup. The Turkish Cypriot north recorded its first case on Tuesday, a German tourist.
Northern Cypriot health minister Ali Pilli said the hotel was in Famagusta on the eastern coast and that the 30-member group had arrived from Balingen in Germany on Sunday evening. Authorities there also closed schools and universities until further notice.
(Reporting by Michele Kambas in Athens and Daren Butler in Istanbul; Editing by Philippa Fletcher and Lisa Shumaker)