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Greek Religious Group Spreading Coronavirus, Fears More Coming

March 9, 2020

ATHENS – A Greek group that made a pilgrimage to Egypt and Israel now has 47 cases of coronavirus, bringing the total in the country to 66 with health officials anxious that it could get worse.

The National Public Health Organization (EODY) said no fatalities have been reported but that a 66-year-old man who was among the travelers was intensive care and that four of the cases were in people who had been in contact with the group.

Authorities were trying to trace the contacts to try to contain the spread with a jump of 21 in one day on March 7, with the New Democracy government having already put in place a contingency program to shut down public gatherings.

There were 54 people in the religious group,  all from three cities in southwest Greece and the nearby island of Zakynthos, said Kathimerini, but one new case is from the central island of Evia, a person who had been in contact with the carriers.

Another case from the group is a student at a university of Crete, making officials anxious it could spread on that island as hotel owners and the tourist sector is getting fearful travelers will stay away from Greece and end a record run of seasons, which would be a big hit.

The government is expected to announce plans on March 8 or 9 that could include closing schools and other public spots and gathering places, the paper said, after Health Ministry spokesman Prof. Sotiris Tsiodras earlier said there was no indication of a larger outbreak.

But even as he said carriers could be tracked down – without indicating how that could happen if it spread in a spot such as the Acropolis, where members of a cruise ship where there had been a carrier had visited – he added that the virus continues “to spread under our noses” warned against complacency.

The ministry has also decided on the suspension of all organized group excursions to affected areas and sports events involving teams in the most affected regions will take place without spectators, stadiums left otherwise empty.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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