THESSALONIKI — The COVID-19 pandemic has become so bad in Greece's second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki in the northern part of the country that the Hellenic Army General Staff (HAGS) will set up a mobile emergency medical unit in the courtyard of the 424 General Military Hospital there.
But it won't treat COVID-19 patients, only those with other reasons for being hospitalized so as to free up public facilities for Coronavirus cases, with Intensive Care Units (ICU's) at danger of being overrun and completely filled.
Greece's second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki continued to be the country's hot spot for COVID-19 where it had spun out of control so fast the New Democracy government, after imposing local lockdowns, made it national.
The signs the struggle was being lost in Thessaloniki showed on Nov. 10. when the government, which admitted waiting too long, implemented an emergency plan there.
It was done, said Kathimerini, because of mounting pressure on Intensive Care Units (ICU's) although the government at that point hadn't moved, as it said it would, to commandeer private hospitals and clinics for critical cases.
“The big moment of the great battle in Thessaloniki has come. Unfortunately, we did not pay attention,” said Health Minister Vasilis Kikilias then, adding that 32 percent of all COVID-19 tests performed in Thessaloniki were coming back positive, suggesting a higher transmission rate, a key indicator.
An analysis of sewage in Thessaloniki that earlier seemed to show signs the number of cases was dropping wasn't an accurate picture, said Kathimerini, with health officials saying it instead showed a reduction in the acceleration rate of cases only after review.
“After the rapid increase in admissions, both the hospitals in Thessaloniki and their medical staff have reached their limits,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Monday.
According to figures released by health authorities on Friday, only 4% of ICU beds dedicated to the treatment of coronavirus patients in Thessaloniki were still available, with 210 of the 218 already occupied.
“We issue this final plea: Help us so we can help you. One in two people in the ICU will die — understand this," said Panagiotis Touchtidis, head of the staff association at Thessaloniki's Papageorgiou Hospital.
Touchtidis appealed to people he said displayed a lackadaisical attitude toward mask-wearing to strictly adhere to the rules, warning them that the consequences could be severe.
“Some people still think this is the flu. But the flu never killed 110 people in a day, especially before winter sets in. Unfortunately, we will reach the point where, unless people observe the (restriction) measures, we will not be able to intubate people because there will be no respirators available,” he added.
(Material from Associated Press was used in this report)