THESSALONIKI- Just ahead of the first reported case of the coronavirus being confirmed by Greece's Health Ministry, the agency said it was planning emergency measures that could effectively close down public spaces and gatherings if an outbreak spreads.
That came before it was reported that a 38-year-old woman who had traveled to Italy, where there were more than 200 cases and at least six deaths in the north of country, was found to have the virus on her return, said Kathimerini.
She and her family will be quarantined for an estimated 14 days but there were no reports on whether precautions would be further extended or other more drastic measures taken for now.
The spread worsened in Italy on Feb. 26 with another 30 cases confirmed as the head a Greek Health Ministry committee of experts on contagious diseases, Dimitris Tsiodras, said most cases of the virus are mild and that the public should observe basic hygiene rules such as frequent hand-washing and covering their mouths when coughing.
The government measures would include restricting travelers from countries where it has appeared and other parts of the scheme go as far as almost shutting down the country including suspending schools, universities, churches, theaters, cinemas, sports, and public services, said government spokesman Stelios Petsas of a legislative act, the paper said.
Travelers from virus-hit countries could be hit with bars at air, sea, rail and road links to keep them out as Greece has already done in suspending its visa service in China, where the virus first appeared.
The suspension will include all enclosed areas where public gatherings take place, as well as restrictions on public transport, which could effectively shut down the country as the revenue-critical tourist season approaches.
The Health Ministry would also be given broad powers to let medical authorities step in to deal with an outbreak or epidemic as fears are rising Greece could be hit because of its close proximity to Italy.
The western Greek ports of Patra - Greece’s third largest city - and Igoumenitsa - are major destinations for visitors and residents from Italy to enter Greece and continues to operate although health authorities are there to advise travelers on preventive measures.
The legislation will allow the requisition by the state of private clinics, including intensive care units, as well as hotels and other private accommodation which will be also used for quarantine purposes.
The act will also enable the transfer of medical staff and ambulance to areas of greatest need and also speed funding for new hirings and the procurement of necessary medicines, the report also said.
Doctors in Patra cleared a man suspected of bringing the highly contagious new coronavirus into Greece from Italy and another in Thessaloniki was also reported to have tested negative.
Health Minister Kikilias in Thessaloniki after First Case of Coronavirus Found in Greece
Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias convened a meeting at the health ministry on Wednesday afternoon, after the first coronavirus case in Greece was confirmed in Thessaloniki.
The meeting included Deputy Health Minister Vassilis Kontozamanis, ministry secretary generals Yiannis Kotsiopoulos and Panagiotis Prezerakos, Professor Sotiris Tsiodras and other officials.
After the meeting, Kikilias will depart for Thessaloniki to chair a meeting at the region's headquarters at 17:00, with the participation of Central Macedonia governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas, Thessaloniki Mayor Constantinos Zervas, the president of the Hellenic Medical Association Athanassios Exadaktylos and the heads of the northern Greece health regions Dimitris Tsalikakis and Panagiotis Boyatzidis.