ATHENS – A second lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Greece has begun to show signs of working, but gradually, and with worries the number of cases could spike if people defy or ignore warnings against holiday gatherings.
The decline has been painstakingly slow through December after the start of the lockdown on Nov. 7 – due to expire Dec. 7 but now extended through Jan. 7, 2021 – with health officials keeping a close watch on critical cases on ventilators.
Hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) were nearly overwhelmed as the New Democracy government didn’t, as vowed, commandeer private hospitals to help cope with the pandemic, many doctors refusing to work with Coronavirus patients.
After surpassing 3,000 cases a day in November, when Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis admitted he delayed too long in bringing a second lockdown after a first 10-week closure of non-essential businesses slowed the spread, the numbers of those in ICU’s are expected to drop below 300 by Christmas.
That would be about a 40 percent drop from current levels but there’s still uncertainty whether the lockdown will be lifted the day after Epiphany Day if other epidemiological data signs aren’t good.
Hope is resting on vaccines but after the government earlier said millions of doses would be coming that has been cut to only 300,000 – enough for 150,000 people as two shots are required weeks apart.
And only 9,750 will be delivered by Dec. 26, far too few to inoculate the frontline healthcare workers in hospitals and those most susceptible, the elderly, nursing home patients and people with underlying conditions.
By Dec. 30, an additional 83,850 installments will have been delivered, while a total of 1,265,550 doses will have arrived by the end of March, 2021, enough to vaccinate about 630,000 people in a country of 11 million, reported Kathimerini.
Health officials said to confine the spread of COVID-19 that at least 70 percent of the population must get the vaccine and Greece will be getting its first batch from the US-German combination of Pfizer and BioNtech.
That will be supplemented beginning in January by vaccines from the US company Moderna near Boston and the British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca as the race to inoculate much of the world has begun, 10 months after the pandemic began.