ATHENS – Caught between different data around the COVID-19 pandemic – cases are starting to fall but deaths remain high and hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) are still nearly overwhelmed, Greece is going into a critical week.
The New Democracy government's panel of scientific and medical experts are assessing the information around the country looking for more optimistic signs after a brutal first two weeks of a three-week lockdown.
The committee that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is relying on to guide what he should do – he admitted waiting too long before bringing a second lockdown, fearing damage to the economy – will decide whether there can be a gradual lifting of restrictions to save the Christmas season.
The determining factors, said Kathimerini, will be whether the almost overwhelmed public hospital sector can cope, although the government didn't move, as promised, to commandeer private hospitals en masse.
There's also worry whether people will obey health measures such as wearing masks and staying a safe social distance as so many didn't after the end of a first 10-week lockdown in the spring that the virus began spreading after summer.
“At the moment, the curve of the epidemic seems to have flattened. The Rt (virus reproduction rate) is at 1, and the positive rate of laboratory tests is close to 10-12%,” Charalambos Gogos, an infectious disease pathologist, professor of pathology at the Medical Department of the University of Patra and member of the Committee of Experts. “This week is crucial,” he told the paper.
“We will wait to see a stabilization of epidemiological indicators, and we hope that next week there will be a drop in the epidemic curve,” he stressed.
A crucial factor will be how the hospitals cope, no explanation why private hospitals haven't been recruited or taken over to relieve the pressure although some private clinics are taking non-COVID patients but not using their Intensive Care Units (ICU's) in facilities only those with money otherwise can access.
Gogos said he expects a decrease in hospital admissions and people on ventilators within 7-10 days, although that would be past the Dec. 1 planned lifting of the lockdown that would be extended.
If that schedule follows there should then, he said, be an improvement in other epidemiological indicators, such as daily cases and the Rt number that it essential to determine easing of health protocols.
Hospitals are also carefully monitoring those patients who don't have COVID-19 so that the virus doesn't spread and overflow the ICU's even though the numbers of units had been doubled during the eight-month pandemic, but not enough.