Greece’s COVID-19 Cases Soaring, Hospitals, ICU Units on Alert

September 17, 2020

ATHENS – Having used the now six-month-long COVID-19 pandemic to beef up Greece's hospitals with more ventilators and Intensive Care Units (ICUs) the government has them standing by in case of another wave of the critically-ill.

Of 930 ICU beds nationwide, 229 have been set aside for Coronavirus pateients and by Sept. 16, some 86 were in use, said Kathimerini, with worries the system could face another challenge as cases are passing 300 almost daily.

Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said another 40 ICU beds would be set aside for COVID-19 patients in Attica around the Greek capital, after the number of intubated patients virtually doubled from 35 to 67 in the previous two weeks.

The union of hospital doctors, OENGE, urged authorities to take action “to stop the pandemic from becoming an intensive care crisis,” calling for new ICUs and the requisition of ICUs at private hospitals. 

The public hospital sector had benefited from donations from the Diaspora and philanthropists, caught off-guard by the pandemic after a near decade of budget and equipment cuts during an economic and austerity crisis.

Health authorities on Sept. 16 said there were 312 more coronavirus infections, including 174 in Attica, bringing the total to 14,041 with three deaths bringing the grim toll to 316 so far.

The government has extended the requirement for mandatory face mask use to more places, including outdoors at areas such as the public open air markets known as Laiki but there is still some defiance and resistance.

Tourists were allowed into the country beginning in July and while the numbers were far fewer than expected some brought infections with them, adding to the growing numbers.

Tavel restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus through foreign arrivals were extended until Sept. 30.

Travelers flying from Bulgaria, Romania, the United Arab Emirates, Malta, Belgium, Spain, Albania and North Macedonia will be allowed to enter Greece only with a negative COVID-19 test, taken up to 72 hours before arrival.

Travelers from Hungary will also need a negative test as will those from Israel, while those from Sweden will no longer need to present test results, the paper also said.

Attica Region ICUs more than half full

The stricter coronavirus preventative measures for Attica this week are a result of both the rise in new infection cases and the rise of people admitted to intensive care units (ICUs), government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Thursday during his daily briefing to the press.

Attica is one of the Greek regions on "orange alert", he said, and must not rise to "red alert". In terms of the general rate of infection, Attica has nearly 3 new cases a day for every 100,000 residents, placing it in the medium-range danger level, he added.

"However, there is also a heavier load on ICUs, with nearly 2 out of 3 beds occupied right now, which places the region at a high-danger level," the spokesman said, calling on the public to observe preventative measures during the pandemic. "We all need to work together against this common enemy," he stressed.



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