Greece to Set Up Nationwide Surveillance Network for COVID-19 Mutations

Αssociated Press

A medical staff member of the National Health Organization (EODY) prepares to conduct a COVID-19 rapid test on a woman at a drive-through testing site in Athens, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS -- Responding to scientists' concerned over the mutated strains of SARS-CoV-2, the health ministry is proceeding to establish a nationwide surveillance and alert network that aims to reinforce and better coordinate the genomic surveillance of the virus, Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said on Friday, after a chairing a meeting on the issue at the ministry.

Other participants at the meeting were the head of the scientific council of the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Athens' Academy, Dimitris Thanos, the president of the National Public Health Organisation (NPHO) Panagiotis Arkoumaneas and epidemiology professors Sotiris Tsiodras, Giorgos Sourvinos, Dimitris Paraskevis and Ghikas Magiorkinis.

In statements, Kikilias referred to the importance of the network to track mutations, in order to have that accurate epidemiological data that will lead to a correct epidemiological analysis, which will help the government make decisions for the protection of public health and the citizens.

There have been 26 confirmed cases involving mutated COVID-19 strains detected so far but additional suspected cases are under investigation, with the results to be announced soon.

A vaccination program is off to a slow start across the country with plans to inoculate at least 70 percent of the population of some 10.5 million people, or around 7.35 million, to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

Europe’s disease surveillance agency warned that three mutant variants of the coronavirus that emerged in Britain, South Africa and Brazil pose a high risk in Europe and will lead to more infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

The variants, which contain mutations or changes to parts of the COVID-19-causing coronavirus scientists say make them more transmissible, have been detected in Europe and will likely continue to do so, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a risk assessment, said Reuters and Kathimerini.