ATHENS – Greece’s advisory panel of doctors and scientists fear a grim outlook for autumn over the relentless COVID-19 pandemic that’s spreading on the back of the Delta Variant and anti-vaxxers refusing to be inoculated – and not being forced.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has required shots only for health care workers but that turned into a political quagmire when the Health Ministry backed off suspensions for those who refused, giving them a second chance. Mitsotakis said he might consider mandatory shots for all if the pandemic doesn’t slow as the Eleftheria (Freedom) vaccination campaign has seen about 61 percent of the population of 10.7 million vaccinated, short of the 70 percent necessary to be effective.
The reluctance to impose shots, the anti-vaxxers, Delta, and people ignoring or defying what’s left of health measures has produced a volatile brew seeing the number of cases, hospitalizations, people in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and deaths jumping almost daily. “We will have strong upheavals until Christmas and then the epidemic wave will begin to de-escalate,” Nikos Sypsas, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Athens University, head of the Infection Unit at the Laiko Hospital and a member of the advisory committee told Kathimerini.
“The Delta Variant has a reproduction rate that reaches 8, while the original virus did not exceed 2.4. This huge contagion, combined with the large number of unvaccinated people, almost 4 million, creates ideal conditions for the outbreak of cases,” he said. “On the other hand, there are many who are vaccinated – almost half the population – and vaccines may not protect against infection, but they do protect against serious illness, intubation and death. We will have shocks, then, but I believe that we will endure,” Sypsas said. For his part, Ioannis Kioumis, Professor of Pulmonology and Infectious diseases at Aristotle University, said that the omens are not promising. “Unlike this time last year, when Covid units were almost empty, this year we entered September with a lot of cases, with the virus now infecting vaccinated people and medical staff are exhausted,” he said, adding that with the suspensions of healthcare workers, “it is certain that in the coming months, autumn and winter, we will find ourselves in an even more difficult position.
” Despite the dire predictions, Mitsotakis said he will still wait and as his attention is turning more toward political and economic conditions with his government in disarray over what he said were lapses in responses to a summer of wildfires and handling of the pandemic, and rivals potshots.