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Omicron Drives COVID-19 Cases in Greece to Record Highs

ATHENS – Greece confirmed 50,126 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, with 52 of these identified at entry points to the country, the National Public Health Organization (EODY) said on Tuesday.

Greek Health Officials See Omicron Spiking Hard, Then Receding

The Omicron Variant of COVID-19 will continue to bring soaring cases, hospitalizations and deaths but could quickly fall back later in January after peaking, a key member of the government’s advisory health panel said.

Dr. Gkikas Magiorkinis told the state-run radio station Praktoreio that is based on how it behaved in South Africa, where it originated although the government for now has stepped up health restrictions.

“The most likely scenario is that we will see a decline within January. The second scenario, which is less probable, is a decline by the end of February … I believe that it will soon peter out,” Magiorkinis was quoted as saying.

There was worry though that earlier lenient health measures over the holidays that let huge crowds gather in shopping areas, theaters, concert halls and public gathering spots would drive up the numbers and pressure the health system.

Read more: Greece’s State, Justice Ministers Test Positive for COVID-19

Magiorkinis advised those who are socially active to avoid contact with people in high-risk groups although there are so many anti-vaxxers spreading the virus that it can be hard to know who is infected.

The riskiest groups include the elderly who are more susceptible to the Coronavirus and those meeting them are advised to wear masks and take a self-test before as part of the precautions.

“For those that are vaccinated, the risk is lower. What we are interested in is to not generate pressure from the ages over 60 and from the unvaccinated,” he said, that sector being required to be vaccinated starting Jan. 16 or face 100 euro ($113) fines.

While a third booster shot is still being given he said there is already talk that a fourth might be needed, especially for immunocompromised and io vulnerable groups to protect them against infection.

Omicron accounts for 70 percent of cases across five regions, the most populous wit the three largest cities of Athens in Attica, Thessaloniki and Patra as well as Thessaly and on Crete, said Theoklis Zaoutis, head of the National Public Health Organization (EODY.)

It’s also 70 percent for hospitalizations showing how fast Omicron spreads, although it’s less deadly than the Delta Variant. Zaoutis said that 95 percent of  people who had a positive PCR test for Omicron had a positive rapid test which proves the reliability of the tests in showing the variant, said Kathimerini.

COVID-19 Infects 92 Medical Staffers at Athens’ Biggest Hospital

A wave of COVID-19 cases has hit Evangelismos Hospital, the capital’s biggest, with 92 medical staff members being infected and quarantined, further depleting ranks of critical health care workers there.

Greece’s health officials had fared worker shortages in a number of sectors because of the highly-contagious if less deadly Omicron Variant which is nevertheless increasing how many people need to be hospitalized.

The hospital has banned visitors, Manager Anastasios Grigoropoulos told Kathimerini, and he said that all those who tested positive were infected outside of the hospital, as health care workers must be vaccinated.

Many patients being treated for illnesses other than COVID are being infected inside the hospital from other patients after testing negative on admission and positive a few days later, he said.

There are worries that even more medical staff will be infected and quarantined as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has backed away from a pledge to consider mandatory vaccinations for all of society.

Read more: Greece Caps Price of PCR Tests at 47 Euros

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