NICOSIA (Reuters) - Cyprus on Friday said children aged 12 to 15 would be included in a mass inoculation programme to curb the spread of COVID-19, as it tightened regulations for access to public areas.
The island has been experiencing an aggressive spike caused by the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus which started manifesting in mid-June. Cyprus has recorded 416 deaths from the coronavirus since March 2020 and 100,784 infections.
"The only way we can stop the emergence of new aggressive strains (of COVID-19) is vaccination," Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas said in a statement.
Children would be eligible for vaccines using the mRNA technology manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, and only with parental consent, Hadjipantelas said. The measure comes into effect on Aug. 2.
Data issued by the Health Ministry earlier Friday said that new infections have shown a decline over the past two weeks, with the average age of persons affected at 28.
Curbing a spike in the Delta variant and vaccine hesitancy among a section of the population were 'two very high hurdles threatening public health', Hadjipantelas said.
Authorities also tightened existing requirements that persons display a so-called 'SafePass' of either vaccination or a negative test to access public areas where a minimum of 10 persons gather. The previous requirement was for 20 people.
Some 65% of the population have completed their vaccination programme.
(Reporting by Michele Kambas, editing by Louise Heavens)