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Beefed-Up Greek Health System Handling COVID-19 Sudden Surge

Αssociated Press

A woman wearing a face mask walks in front of AHEPA hospital in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

ATHENS – A worrying spike in COVID-19 cases – a 24-hour record of 203 on Aug. 9 – because people aren't following health restrictions and tourists are bringing in the virus hasn't overwhelmed Greece's health system which has been building resources.

The health sector, especially public hospitals which suffered budget cuts during a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis, were woefully inadequate to deal with the pandemic when it hit.

But an early lockdown ordered March 23 by Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis before a single death held down the number of cases and fatalities and gained crucial time to add Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and respirators, with the aid of the Diaspora and some private donors.

There were 5,623 cases, soaring in August after Greece opened its borders to tourists and while health protocols were ordered they often aren't being followed despite the jump. 

Officials of the National Health System (ESY) said the sector had already been reinforced in case of a second wave and that there's enough staff and equipment to deal with the new cases if they require hospitalization.

While rising, the number of patients admitted to hospital but not placed in an ICU remains low. According to health authorities, 72 patients were in non-ICU coronavirus wards in ESY hospitals as of Aug. 7.

While more people are getting infected, many of them are young and without multiple underlying conditions which made the elderly so susceptible and needing hospitalization and the largest number of fatalities during the pandemic.