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Greece’s COVID-19 Cases Level Off, But Deaths Rise, ICU’s Overflow

ATHENS – Despite the easing of an already lenient pseudo-locked aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Greece, cases have begun to stabilize but there’s worry about soaring deaths and overwhelmed Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in public hospitals.

There were another 104 fatalities on April 15, a rising trend and the highest daily rate in the more than year-long pandemic although most elderly people – the most susceptible – have been vaccinated as the inoculation program picks up.

There were also 819 people on ventilators in hospital wards and corridors because there aren’t enough ICU beds for them and the New Democracy government hasn’t, as vowed, commandeered all private hospital units.

And there was still 3,833 more cases across the country, driven by the highly contagious British variant that began there when the United Kingdom government shied away from lockdowns and tougher containment measures.

That strain, called B.1.1.7 of the virus has been identified at a rate ranging from 25% to 96%, depending on the region, against the total samples tested for mutations in Greece, said Kathimerini in a report.

Greece has up to 200,000 active cases, Nikolaos Tzanakis, an expert in respiratory disease and Vice President of the Hellenic Thoracic Society told SKAI radio, adding that they should begin to fall after April 20.

He said the ICU numbers should fall two or three weeks after that although the government said it might allow regional travel for Holy Week and the May 2 Easter celebration which health officials fear could drive another spike.

“I hope that ICU demand will peak at 900 beds,” he said.

The World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Europe, Hans Kluge, met with Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias and signed an agreement for the opening of the Athens Quality of Care and Patient Safety Office, which will serve the needs of Mediterranean countries.

Kluge said the pandemic pushed the health systems of all countries to their limits but gave doctors and scientists a chance to reconfigure how public health care should work.

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