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Athens Could Be Last Stand Against Surging COVID-19 Cases, Deaths

November 16, 2020

ATHENS – Having lost the fight to contain COVID-19 in Greece's second-largest city, Thessaloniki, health officials are hoping it can be slowed in the nation's capital and Attica prefecture where cases have been soaring too.

Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis admitted he had been slow to bring a second lockdown that began Nov. 14 after Thessaloniki was overwhelmed, as he was trying to keep the economy going to prevent a second shock that could be devastating.

Painting a picture of a looming struggle to keep the Coronavirus from sweeping even more across the country, Kathimerini said health officials are anxious that Athens and surrounding areas with the country's largest population could be overtaken.

That's because hospitals in and around the capital could receive patients from other parts of the country without a large enough capacity to deal with them, at the same time cases are jumping in the capital.

“We can say that the new measures are paying off as soon as we start to see reductions in the so-called ‘hard markers,’ i.e. hospitalizations, intubation and deaths,” said Pagona Lagiou, a Professor of Hygiene and Epidemiology. 

Yannis Tountas, a Professor of Social and Preventive Medicine told the paper that people must show “greater responsibility than that shown by many of our fellow citizens” in following safety rules.

“Otherwise, the second wave of the pandemic will turn into a tsunami and then we will be forced to enter into a much more severe and longer lockdown, with incalculable losses,” he warned.

Hospital staff and health authorities are struggling to keep public hospitals going because of an unprecedented wave of COVID-19 admissions that have already pushed hospitals in the northern party of the country past their breaking point.

With the virus likely at its peak, officials are hoping it will start to recede enough to let the health sector deal with the most critical cases that has nearly filled Intensive Care Units (ICU's) and taken up most of the ventilators.

Health officials told the newspaper that the biggest fear is that if people don't obey a second lockdown and follow health measures after so many ignored them that the cases surged that hospitals won't be able to cope.

The turning point could be January, 2021 if vaccines are available and people are willing to take the first batches rushed into production in  worldwide attempt to stop the virus.

Medical staff will be vaccinated first, followed by the security forces, people at increased risk of infection, such as nursing home residents, those most susceptible – the elderly and with underlying conditions – and then the rest of the population although it wasn't said if politicians or the rich would get priority.

Deputy Health Minister Vassilis Kontozamanis told the newspaper that, “Our goal is to vaccinate the entire population,” after the government said the injections would be free although no one knows how well they will work.

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