ATHENS – After backing away from a pledge to consider mandatory vaccinations if the COVID-19 pandemic surged again in Greece – it has – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis hurriedly brought together top advisors for an emergency meeting over how to deal with it.
That came as the number of daily cases was pushing toward the 5,000 mark, some 15 times higher than earlier in the summer before his government eased health restrictions to spur a faster economic recovery.
Rabid anti-vaxxers are fast spreading the Coronavirus but so far Mitsotakis had required only health workers to be inoculated, the major rival SYRIZA saying he has abandoned the fight against the pandemic and afraid to pull the trigger for mandatory shots out of fear of the political cost.
The meeting, said Kathimerini, was attended by chief epidemiological adviser, Dr. Sotiris Tsiodras, who had been the calming voice of lockdowns, and it included Health Minister Thanos Plevris – who has no experience in the health sector – and his deputy, Dr. Mina Gaga, who does.
The number of new confirmed cases, along with the number of fatalities are other related data, are announced daily by the National Organization for Public Health (EODY) in a televised evening bulletin.
He also met with healthcare officials over what to do about the number of hospitalizations for COVID and filled public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) as the pandemic that was coming under control is spiraling.
The increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has again placed the country’s infectious disease experts on high alert. Northern Greece, in particular, is a source of growing concern as hospital admissions are increasing rapidly and ICU units are under intense pressure, the paper said.
Diamantis Chloros, Director of the Papanikolaou Hospital’s Covid Clinic in Thessaloniki said the ICU’s are filling with people who won’t be inoculated with Greece suffering a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
“No one is doing their duty, neither the unvaccinated, nor the vaccinated, nor the state,” he told ANT1 TV in a direct shot at Mitsotakis, whose government admitted tilting toward the economy as a priority.
Dimosthenis Sariyiannis, Professor of Environmental Engineering at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, said he favors a door-to-door campaign to inform people on the necessity of vaccination although anti-vaxxers said nothing will convince them because they think COVID is a hoax and that vaccines are a conspiracy to alter their DNA and control their minds.
“We do not need to be afraid when we reach 10,000 cases a day. If we get there there is no doubt that we will be vaccinated,” he said and sounded the alarm that cases will hit 5,000 daily.
that cases could soon rise to more than 5,000 a day.
Athens University professor of epidemiology Athena Linou said there should be an expanded persuasion campaign, although that has failed, and that it should target remote groups, such as the Roma.
Athens University Rector Thanos Dimopoulos said that COVID is spreading because of the unvaccinated although the government is allowing them to be in public spaces with the vaccinated, putting them all at risk.
“Obviously the only solution we have to manage the pandemic is vaccination. We see that in whichever regions of Greece the vaccination coverage is lower, we have a high number of hospitalizations. We must not abandon the use of masks, the observance of distances and the good washing of the hands,” he said, but Mitsotakis isn’t listening.
The Director of the Papanikolaou Intensive Care Unit, Nikos Kapravelos, said hospitals in northern Greece are under siege from COVID, that region notorious for defying health measures.
“We are in the middle of a difficult situation regarding the pandemic,” he told Skai TV, adding, “Either we will all be vaccinated together or we will experience tragedies.”
Athanasios Tsakris, Professor of microbiology and member of the Health Ministry’s committee of experts on the pandemic said there will be new waves of COVID this autumn and into the winter.
He told SKAI TV that the pandemic “will evolve until December, in a similar way to the second epidemic wave last year in the corresponding period.”
“From the fourth we passed without a break to the fifth wave in Greece and we see it evolving first in northern Greece and then in the other regions,” he noted although he wasn’t as pessimistic about how bad it would be.
The coronaviruses, he said, “start with the first cold in October, peak around midwinter and continue until spring,” which would be more than tow years since the pandemic began.
He noted that there is a “significant percentage of vaccinated people who provide respite and hope to the health system,” stressing that both the flu vaccine and a booster vaccine shot is needed.
Greece’s Eleftheria (Freedom) vaccination program has all but stopped in its tracks since the summer when the door was opened to tourists and domestic travel to boost the economy.