ATHENS – The record-busting number of COVID-19 cases brought by the highly-contagious Omicron Variant has forced Greece to add 800 more beds just to deal with the virus and set aside entire hospitals for it.
Health Minister Thanos Plevris said the additional beds will be in the most-populous Attica Prefecture that includes the capital, saying that it’s hospital beds and not Intensive Care Units (ICUs) as Omicron is less serious.
“We are currently trying to meet the need in Athens. In addition to the large public facilities in Athens, private clinics are offering 10-15 percent of their beds, which translates into 300-400 extra beds,” he said, said the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency.
He said that the government is getting some beds from private clinics that had largely been unused but didn’t say if they were also offering ICUs or private doctors to aid after the government had conscripted others.
He said there is also a “manageable” problem of personnel gaps due to illness among nursing staff, he said as COVID has spread through health care workers required to be vaccinated, infecting even the fully inoculated.
He said that so far no patient with Omicron has been intubated and that of the approximate 650 hospital admissions a day that up to 40 percent were because of the more deadly Delta Variant, seen putting more pressure on ICUs.
After Sotiria Hospital in Athens, Sismanogleio is also becoming a COVID-only hospital as the Health Ministry turns toward providing more resources after the major rival SYRIZA said the government wasn’t handling the pandemic.
There were 251,727 virus infections from New Year’s Even until Jan. 6 as easing up on restrictions during the holidays before tightening them too late brought soaring numbers of cases.
People are also overcrowding emergency rooms to get a free molecular PCR test although the government lowered the maximum price for them at private clinics from 60 euros ($68) to 47 euros ($53) which is still out of reach for many.
Speaking to SKAI, the head of the Public Hospital Workers Federation (POEDIN) said 1,200 healthcare staff members in Attica are in quarantine, having been infected by the virus.