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Society

Greece’s COVID-19 Lockdown: Curfew, Hospitals Squeezed, Thessaloniki Besieged

November 12, 2020

ATHENS — With estimates a third of the population of Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city, could be infected, health officials are growing alarmed over the rapid spread of COVID-19, and the New Democracy government imposed tighter restrictions in the country, including a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The Coronavirus that had been held down for months after a 10-week lockdown in March now appeared to be out of control in some places in Greece, leading to another shutdown of Thessaloniki, where a state of emergency was declared after cases were jumping by more than 500 a day.

Mathematical models prepared by Aristotle University professor Dimosthenis Sarigiannis showed that in just a week cases in Thessaloniki jumped 40 percent, from 40,000 to 60,000, said Kathimerini.

Critically, the reproduction number showing the rate of spread – below one shows it's being contained, soared to 1.8 with daily tests showing that 32 percent were positive for the virus.

This has put public hospitals under crushing pressure only days after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the system was managing only to have health officials say that it isn't, with Intensive Care Units (ICU's) near full and the number of people needing ventilators – as well as fatalities – climbing.

Despite that, the government didn't move as it had said it would to commandeer private clinics although surgical units in other areas such as cardiovascular units are being converted to handle COVID-19 patients.

The offices of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) has provided hospitals with detachable kiosks and tents to be set up in hospital courtyards if needed – in the cold – as well as a high-tech disinfection machine. There are also thoughts of using the Vellideio Conference Center as an ICU, the paper said.

Other reports said the 424 General Military Hospital of Thessaloniki, which already has its own ICU, is even preparing to convert the rooms in its underground nuclear shelter into treatment wards. 

A plan is in place to air transport patients to hospitals in other cities although many of those are nearing capacity as well. The government had used the eight month pandemic to boost ICUs and ventilators but not enough,

There was said to be fear growing in the city almost as fast as the virus is spreading, Mitsotakis having been reluctant to impose a second general lockdown because it could bring another shock to the economy.

The virus spread after the first lockdown after tourists were allowed into the country and people began defying or ignoring health protocols such as wearing masks and staying safe social distances as well as public gathering spots, particularly nightclubs, being allowed to stay open for economic benefits.

The curfew will only exclude people who need to leave the house for work, health reasons or a short walk with a pet.

Those who want to leave their home after 9 p.m. must send an SMS to 13033, or have a document from their employer. 

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