ATHENS – The indicators are flashing red about the resurging COVID-19 pandemic in Greece as the government is trying to save lives and the Christmas season for retailers at the same time.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ New Democracy government had tilted toward the economy as a priority before record numbers of cases, hospitalizations, people on ventilators in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and deaths made him change tack.
Without making shots mandatory for all as he said he would consider, he has made them a requirement as of Jan. 16, 2022 for those over 60, who will face monthly fines of 100 euros ($113.24) otherwise.
He apparently was moved by the numbers, with deaths jumping almost 100 a day and November being an especially harsh month as his government couldn’t decide on an approach, drawing the scorn of the major rival SYRIZA which said people should be persuaded but didn’t say how.
There were 2,219 deaths that month, 82.7 percent of them people 65 and over, an especially vulnerable group which has been reluctant to be vaccinated despite being a high-risk category.
Only about 63% of Greece’s around 11 million population is fully vaccinated, a number virtually unchanged since the summer and far below the 70 percent of the country’s population of 10.7 million people that health officials said is needed to slow the pandemic, with another worry over the Omicron Variant coming after the Delta Variant.
The National Organization for Public Health (EODY) reported 7,486 new infections and 88 Covid-related fatalities on Nov. 30, taking Greece’s coronavirus death toll to 18,157, said Kathimerini.
In a little sign of hope, the seven-day average of new infections was 6,304, down about 450 from the previous week, although a number still high enough to register worry with the government’s advisory panel of doctors and scientists who have been curiously quiet as the pandemic has risen.
The dread is also over the growing numbers of people in ICUs, now at 664 and wards overflowing, but the government still not moving to conscript private clinics reserved for the affluent and those with the expensive health insurance to afford them.
There was another key troublesome indicator in wastewater studies which are harbingers of what’s coming and showing the viral load remains high across the country and rising sharply in others, the paper said.
That includes the country’s third-largest city of Patra on the west coast, Agios Nikolaos on Crete and Ioannina in northwestern Greece, showing no signs of abating.
“It is imperative that we cut the pandemic’s course,” Deputy Health Minister Mina Gaga said after a meeting with the management of the Ippokrateio Hospital in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, where ICU beds are full.
That has led to a number of critically ill patients being treated in repurposed operating theaters but not being moved to private clinics with no explanation why that hasn’t been done because of the severity of the crisis.
“We truly have too many cases. The pressure the system is under is terrifying; the danger for each of these patients and the staff is terrifying,” said Gaga, a physician.