The results of wider coronavirus testing will be helpful to decision makers when the time comes to consider easing the lockdown, Dr Petros Karayiannis, professor of microbiology and molecular virology and member of the Health Ministry’s advisory team of experts told CNA.
Yesterday the government announced that a representative sample of 800 people from all districts will be tested for coronavirus. Another 20,000 tests will be held over the next 20 days among people in the private and public sector still at work.
Karayiannis explained that the testing announced by the government will be conducted “in order to have a picture as to how many asymptomatic carriers or people with mild symptoms are around and do not think they have contracted the coronavirus.”
These are epidemiological data which we have to know and which will help us make decisions about the restrictive measures, when no more COVID-19 confirmed cases are reported, he added.
“The goal is to see how the virus has spread, what percentage may be asymptomatic and this information will help towards the end of the pandemic in order to make the right decisions on the gradual easing of restrictive measures, “ Karayiannis noted.
He pointed out that a targeted collection of samples will be made in hospitals, the National Guard and the police.
“We will worry about asymptomatic carriers when we no longer have reported cases with symptoms,” he said.
When Cyprus’ curve reaches zero, we must make sure whether such people are moving among us, he noted.
“We will have to think on how to deal with asymptomatic carriers when we decide to ease the measures.”
Karayiannis said that asymptomatic carriers are a worrying phenomenon, adding that 13% of confirmed Covid-19 cases so far has been asymptomatic.
“It concerns us even now because some of them may be hospitalized (for other reasons) and cause a problem,” he said.
He did point out however that people with no symptoms do not transmit the virus as easily as someone with symptoms, as they don’t cough or sneeze.
In order for a person with no symptoms to transmit the disease he would have to come to close contact with someone, to hug them and shake their hands.
“It is more likely that such a person would transmit the disease to those close to him rather than to someone who is not in his circle,” he added.
According to studies, Karayiannis said, asymptomatic people, do not transmit the virus for a long period of time. They can transmit it for a period of about ten days and those who have the virus are likely to recover from it within 20 days, he added.
Referring to the random collection of 800 samples he explained that it is done “for statistical reasons that a statistical outcome which will be trustworthy will come out it.”