ATHENS — Greece's health minister said Wednesday that unless at least 200 private doctors volunteer to help the public health service's battle against COVID-19 in the next 48 hours, he will recommend the prime minister orders the requisitioning of their services.
Vassilis Kikilias made the announcement as Greece registered a new daily record of confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic, despite lockdown-related measures in place since early November. The country of 11 million announced 3,465 new infections and 56 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections to just under 230,000. More than 7,200 people have died.
Kikilias renewed an appeal to private sector pathologists, respiratory specialists and general practitioners to assist the public health service. "It is a battle for human life, it is honoring the Hippocratic oath," Kikilias said during a regular Health Ministry briefing on the coronavirus. "Our citizens need you, Greece needs you."
Kikilias said if at least 200 doctors from those particular specialties do not respond to his appeal within the next 48 hours, he will recommend to Prime Minister Kyrakos Mitsotakis to order the requisitioning of their services, essentially forcing them into working in the public sector.
Greece was credited with handling the initial outbreak of the pandemic well, with an early lockdown imposed last spring keeping cases and hospitalizations low. The respite gave the government time to add hundreds of intensive care beds to the public health system.
But the country has been struggling to overcome a surge in infections and deaths since the fall, despite lockdown measures that have largely shuttered the retail sector and only allow people to leave their homes for specific reasons and with either a self-written declaration or an SMS.