ATHENS – After allowing churches to conduct Epiphany Day services – bringing flocks – Greece’s New Democracy government is girding for what could turn into a third wave of COVID-19 if going easy sees cases spike.
After the churches were given a pass, there were scenes of some businesses defying the lockdown and either opening outright or surreptitiously, the government drawing fire for backing away from its insistence that everyone would be treated equally but extending the lockdown to at least Jan. 18.
The second lockdown began Nov. 7, 2019 after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis admitted waiting too long in a bid to save the economy too, which hasn’t worked out either way.
Getting tougher in December, implementing stricter measures over the holidays had seen cases fall, as well as deaths and the number of people on ventilators in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUS.)
But they are creeping up again with fear that the quasi-lockdown, far more lenient than the first in the spring of 2019 that lasted 10 weeks and saw almost everyone follow health protocols, will see a jump in cases which occurs within two weeks of public gatherings, as happened in churches.
Health officials told Kathimerini that the period through mid-March, which coincides with flu season, colder weather that lets the Coronavirus spread more easily, and people staying in more could be a breeding ground for trouble.
That’s because the public health sector has been under intense pressure for 10 months, since the pandemic began, and the government hasn’t moved, as vowed, to commander private hospitals or private doctors.
There’s also worry about a COVID-19 variant that appeared in the United Kingdom, with travelers there to Greece bringing it with them, and the slow rate of vaccinations.
THe National Health System (ESY) is struggling to keep up with dealing with the pandemic and the effects of letting churches open and people move about more easily hasn’t been seen yet.
Health authorities are especially concerned about the course of the pandemic in densely populated Attica, where in some areas, including downtown Athens, there has been a spike in cases, the paper said.
The government has been pleading with people to obey health measures, what could be a lost cause after they saw the churches given an exemption and thousands of businesses on the edge of going under.
They have been forced to close 19 weeks since last March with signs it could go on, the government trying to figure some way to provide more subsidies to them and workers also locked out of their jobs.
Dimitris Paraskevis, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at Athens University and a member of the government’s expert committee, said he’s anxious about what awaits.
“Due to the climatic conditions, we congregate indoors. In addition, a period has begun in which other respiratory infections, such as the flu, are on the rise,” he told the paper.
“Although this year it is expected that the number of influenza virus infections will be significantly lower due to the protection measures against the coronavirus, the health system (is still treating a significant number of patients infected during) the previous wave,” he noted.
He added that, “We are still at the beginning of the vaccination program and it is not expected that a sufficient percentage of vulnerable populations will be immediately protected by the vaccine.”
He also noted societal “fatigue” after a two-month lockdown and people unwilling to obey, worn out by being kept inside and rolling the dice that they won’t be infected by going out without masks or staying safe social distances from other people.