THESSALONIKI — Greek authorities are taking over two private health clinics and their staff in northern Greece as the region's public hospitals are under severe pressure from a surge in coronavirus cases over the past few weeks, the country's Health Ministry said Friday.
The ministry said it had requested beds in private hospitals be made available to the public health system for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, but that "despite the effort, the finding of a mutually acceptable solution was not possible."
The ministry said that as of Friday it was forcibly appropriating the two clinics and their staff in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest urban center which is at the center of spiraling cases.
"In the prefecture of Thessaloniki and after the very heavy epidemiological burden that is testing the limits of hospitals as well as of staff, it was deemed necessary to operate simple COVID-19 beds in private clinics," the ministry said.
Greece largely escaped the initial outbreak of coronavirus in the spring, with the government imposing an early lockdown that was credited with keeping the numbers of infections and deaths low.
But it has seen a major resurgence of the virus after the summer, leading to dozens of deaths each day and thousands of new infections. Nearly 500 people are intubated in intensive care units across the country.
According to the latest figures issued Thursday evening, there were more than 85,200 confirmed coronavirus cases and a total of nearly 1,350 deaths in this country of about 11 million people.
A nationwide lockdown has been imposed until the end of the month, with retail stores, schools, bars, restaurants and all entertainment venues shut and a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew in place.
Those who wish to leave home can do so only for specific reasons and must notify authorities by telephone text message or carry a self-written permit. There is no limit,however, on how long people can leave their homes for, or how many times per day.
The outbreak has been particularly severe in northern Greece, where hospitals have come under increasing pressure. Authorities have been increasing the number of intensive care beds in the country, doubling the number available since mid-2019 when the current government came to power.
Of 1,203 intensive care beds now available nationwide, 579 have been made available exclusively for COVID-19 patients, according to figures released Wednesday. Of those, 440 are already occupied. Thessaloniki had 211 ICU beds available for COVID-19, of which 199 were occupied.
Nationwide, Greece had a total of 6,074 hospital beds dedicated to coronavirus patients, of which 3,831 were occupied by Wednesday.