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COVID-19 Rising, Greek Hospital Workers Want More Help, Worry Mounts

November 13, 2020

ATHENS – Criticism over the New Democracy government's handling of a second wave of COVID-19 – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis admitted he waited too long to bring a second lockdown – now is seeing hospital workers demanding more staff to deal with surging cases. 

Dozens of workers held protests at hospitals across Greece, complaining of being overwhelmed with the pandemic now eight months long and showing no signs of abating, with critical cases and deaths jumping too.

An increase in the number of people seriously ill with COVID-19 has brought the country’s health system under increasing pressure. With the help of the Diaspora and some philanthropists, the government doubled the number of ICU beds, with 1,104 available.

Some 496 have been set aside for COVID-19 patients and 335 were already taken and health experts said they fear the numbers will grow although the government hasn't moved yet as it vowed to commandeer beds in private facilities.

Alarm is growing over how fast the number of cases is soaring, another 3,316 on Nov. 12, about a 600 percent increase over previous recent months as the government blamed young people going to night clubs – which were allowed to be open – for spreading the Coronavirus so fast.

He said the resurgence due to “young people having fun. I’m not saying this as criticism, of course young people are more susceptible to such behavior. But it’s an observation and it needs to be heard.”

Greece’s total confirmed COVID-19 infections stand at 66,637 with an overall death toll of 959 in the country of around 11 million and the government, trying to fend off criticism, pointed out there were only about 500 ICU beds when it came to power in July, 2019, ousting SYRIZA, which cut health budgets.

“Every humanly possible effort was made so that we can, in the intervening time between the first wave and where we are today, reinforce the ICUs with beds and personnel,” Mitsotakis said during a Parliament debate on the government’s handling of the pandemic. “Whatever was humanly possible … has been done and continues to be done,” he repeated.

He said, however that no matter how many ICUs a country has, “and obviously we prefer to have more rather than fewer, a health system cannot cope if we do not hit the problem at the start of the chain. The start of the chain is the uncontrolled spread of the virus mainly through crowding and contact with people we do not know.”

After winning plaudits for bringing an early lockdown in March before a single death, which closed non-essential businesses up to 10 weeks, Mitsotakis allowed tourists to enter the country in July and didn't impose universal mask wearing until it was too late.

Those hospitalized include the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Albania, Anastasios, who was airlifted to Greece from Tirana after showing mild symptoms of COVID-19 and testing positive.

A hospital statement said the 91-year-old archbishop was in stable condition in intensive care with mild respiratory symptoms and a low fever.

Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who has been in self-quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tested positive, said he had received a phone call from his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, who inquired about his health.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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