Cyprus reports 12 cases of new coronavirus variant

Cyprus has detected 12 cases of the new coronavirus variant in people who had arrived from the UK, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.

The ministry said in a press release that the new variant was detected after a specialized screening of samples taken from those arrivals who were diagnosed with the virus.

From the 19 samples taken between Dec. 6 and 20, 12 were found positive for the new strain, it said.

The ministry added that it acted on instructions by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control as part of a Europe-wide program.

Members of the scientific team advising the Health Ministry had said even before the announcement that they suspected the new variant possibly accounted for an increased viral load in recent weeks through a quicker spread and higher transmission rate.

Constantinos Tsioutis, a member of the government’s health advisory committee, said his team will meet on Tuesday to take stock of the situation and, depending on its findings, possibly recommend new restrictions, including a general lockdown.

Cypriots are currently banned to visit relatives and move around between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., while shopping malls, restaurants and cafes have been closed down until Jan. 11.

The Health Ministry announced on Sunday 529 new infections from the coronavirus. The death toll increased by two to 131.