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Delta Variant Overtaking Greece’s Fight Against COVID-19 Pandemic

ATHENS – With Greece's unvaccinated perpetuating the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials are alarmed about how fast the Delta Variant has become the dominant strain, now making up 85 percent of new cases.

Adding to the worry is that children seem to be the superspreaders as the Coronavirus is reaching down into younger groups, many of whom believe it's an old person's disease and refuse to be inoculated.

Greece's Eleftheria (Freedom) vaccination campaign offers shots to those 12-15 but not younger and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis hasn't made shots mandatory except for health workers even as the situation worsens.

Health authorities are pleading openly with parents to vaccinate students eligible for the shots before schools reopen in September but the government's pitch hit a roadblock when tennis star Stefanos Tsitsipas, 23, came out as an anti-vaxxer, even wishing the young would be infected so they could build immunity.

The Delta Variant was only 5 percent of cases in mid-June when there were little more than 300 infections daily, now often over 3,000.

“We’ve seen it happen with the British variant, we see it happening more intensely now: Both children and adolescents are now transmitting the virus much more ‘efficiently’ than in the early stages of the pandemic,”the Director of the Microbiology Laboratory at Athens University, Athanasios Tsakris told Kathimerini.

He said that the main differences in the Delta Variant from India from previous types of COVID-19 are its high transmissibility and its ability to evade, to some extent, antibodies which would have targeted previous variants.

“Comparative studies of individuals of the same age and with underlying conditions who had not been vaccinated and became ill during previous waves of the pandemic and the current one show that in this wave, which is characterized by the predominance of Delta, the infections are more serious and the need for hospitalization as well as for mechanical breathing support is greater,” he said.

“An unvaccinated person is at greater risk today than they would have been six months or a year ago and, as a result, we are seeing more serious infections in younger adults as well,” he told the newspaper.

He also noted that another dimension of the fourth wave of the pandemic is the significant drop in asymptomatic cases, making it harder to detect and with many in Greece defying what's left of health measures from an eased lenient lockdown.

Especially troubling is that the number of people in ventilators in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) – 318 on Aug. 22 – and deaths, 33 that day, are going up although it hasn't led to a visible drop in public gatherings or people flocking to restaurants, bars, taverns and wild parties on islands that are hot spots.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 559,186 confirmed coronavirus cases, with some 13,384 fatalities.

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