ATHENS – Hopes that the COVID-19 pandemic might begin to wind down are fading away fast and Greece could face a series of more lockdowns into the spring of 2021, an epidemiologist on the New Democracy government's advisory committee said.
Dr. Nikos Sipsas told SKAI TV that a drop in cases below the 3,000 barrier isn't proof itself that the Coronavirus is being beaten back after soaring because so many people wouldn't follow health protocols.
“We should be prepared for a difficult winter, with rolling lockdowns all the way until spring,” he said, predicting brief periods with looser restrictions when conditions at hospitals ease, followed by tighter measures when cases rise again.
He said that an average of 10 percent of tests are still coming back positive, high above the World Health Organization’s safety limit of 4 percent. The transmissibility rate, he added, remains at between 1.2 and 1.4, above the WHO’s highest acceptable rate of R1.
Especially worrying, he said, is the number of people needing to be put on ventilators in overwhelmed hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) that were rapidly running out although the government hadn't moved to commandeer private hospitals as it said.
While the elderly and those with underlying conditions are most susceptible, so many young people – many partying and going to night clubs – contracted the virus that the average age of those infected is falling and it fell from 75 to 65 for those on ventilators.
“We see tragic scenes at hospital of 50-year-olds coming in, unable to breathe,” he said. “The virus is showing its teeth and it looks very ugly,” he added, most of it hidden in hospitals where people can't see the devastation.
He said a lockdown – Prime Minister Kyriakis Mitsotakis admitted he waited too long to bring a second shutdown after being applauded for closing non-essential businesses for 10 weeks beginning in March – was the only way to deal with the pandemic.
The government had been reluctant to keep businesses closed in fear that the already staggering economy couldn't take a second deep shock and that many businesses won't be left standing when it's over, no predictions yet.