The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Greece has risen to 31.

Health Ministry Spokesman Professor Sotiris Tsiodras, who is an infectious diseases expert, said on Thursday that 21 new cases that tested positive came from a group of 24 tourists that had visited Israel. Among them was the ninth diagnosed case. Three of the tourists were in a serious condition, suffering from pneumonia, whereas six were in a relatively good condition.

Professor Tsiodras stressed the need to strictly adhere to hygiene rules and noted that travellers were at a high risk. He said that anyone with symptoms such as a fever or a cough should stay at home to protect the elderly and those with chronic ailments. He warned against panic, but did add that the disease was almost certainly underdiagnosed and will continue to spread. He said lab tests will be confined to serious cases as the number of incidents rise.

“It is not more deadly than other [viruses] but it spreads more easily, even through people with mild symptoms. We expect a significant increase in cases in our country also. According to mathematical models and taking the weather into account, we estimate that 5 per cent of the population could get sick this year and up to 10-15 per cent of the population next winter,” he said.

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On the ninth case and the other members of the group visiting Israel, he said that authorities had traced more than 400 of their contacts.

“Israel was one of the countries with few cases. The group returned on 27 February and this shows the virus’s potential to cross borders,” adding that the hospitals that treated the cases had observe the protocol “but the virus can pass right under our noses”.

Another suspected case of coronavirus was a university student examined in Rethymno, Crete. The University of Rethymno rectorate decided to suspend the operation of the university for precautionary reasons for the next three days.

The student is in good condition and is being treated in an isolation unit at the Rethymno hospital, while the results of a blood sample to test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus are expected in the afternoon.

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