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In Defiant Thessaloniki, COVID-19 Surge Worries Health Experts

Αssociated Press

A man wearing a face mask against the spread of the coronavirus, rides an electric scooter in front of the White Tower during the lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

THESSALONIKI -- While businesses in Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, demanded the New Democracy government ease a lenient lockdown to let them reopen, data shows another wave of COVID-19 is cresting.

That comes as people continued to flock the waterfront promenade in defiance of health restrictions, at the same time government spokesman Aristoteli Peloni said they weren’t despite videos showing otherwise.

While she said the fight against the Coronavirus has been won because of a picked up vaccination program, the health panel of doctors and scientists advising Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is said to be worried by epidemiological data out of the port city.

That showed cases jumped 28 percent in a week and almost doubled on a daily basis from March 22, coinciding with pictures of people gathering in public as they had done repeatedly in the city without consequence.

The health experts estimate that the number of active cases in the city of roughly 800,000 people currently stands at 2,000 at least, with 90 percent of public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) used with people on ventilators.

There were another 245 cases on April 5 of the countrywide total of 1,866 and there’s been a steady ride in the transmission, worsening the pandemic, leading Deputy Health Minister Vassilis Kontozamanis to head there.

He was to meet with the directors of the city’s public hospitals, the head of the EKAV ambulance service and the General Secretary for health services before going to Kozani, which also remains in lockdown, said Kathimerini.

Speaking earlier on Mega TV, Central Macedonia Regional Governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas denounced people for gathering in masses as he urged them to wear masks and stay apart, which many refused to obey without penalty. 

“The numbers show an increase in cases and we are very concerned about the next few days,” he said.

“We need to be careful because we are still in the middle of the health crisis,” he added, saying that violations of rules aimed at safeguarding public health are “unacceptable,” but without reports violators are being fined.

Thessaloniki was at the epicenter of the second wave of the pandemic in the fall, accounting for the majority of daily fatalities and hospital admissions and leading to a lockdown imposed on Nov. 7, 2020, partially still in place now.