Authorities said during a live briefing on Friday that despite a drop in daily rates of infection in Greece’s two largest cities, Athens and Thessaloniki, to under 400 and under 600 respectively, “the reduction rate is much slower than expected” and infections in other areas had flared up, with a new spike in western Greece.
At present, a total of 4,500 people are being treated in hospitals (one-fourth are in Thessaloniki) and 88 pct of beds are occupied nationally. Deaths are still high, they said, at approximately 85 per day, this past week.
18 regions most afflicted
Greece’s epidemiological burden remains high, with some regions still heavily afflicted by the coronavirus pandemic, said Minister for Civil Protection Nikos Hardalias.
Of the 74 regions in Greece, the following 18 are showing the highest number of infections currently, regardless of the pandemic’s course in these areas. From highest to lowest, these are: Pella, Drama, Thessaloniki, Grevena, Florina, Pieria, Imathia, Serres, Larisa, Kilkis, Chalkidiki, Magnesia, Xanthi, Karditsa, Evros, Kavala, Rodopi and Trikala. Four are in central Greece and the rest in northern Greece.
Additionally, health authorities are concerned about the recent spike in three prefectures in western Greece, said the minister, where people there must diligently comply with health measures. He named the prefectures as those of Achaia and Ilia in the Peloponnese, and Etoloakarnania on the mainland.
The minister said that citizens at the city of Patras should observe the current measures without letting down their guard, especially ahead of celebrations of the city’s patron Saint Andreas on Monday. Hardalias stressed that the rising number of infections in the Peloponnesian regions are important enough to have prompted Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to speak with Patras Mayor Konstantinos Peletidis on Friday, to ensure that all local authorities keep the public on high alert.
Meanwhile, the country’s police authorities have carrried out some 1,341,961 inspections for safety measures violations since November 7. They revealed 34,429 violations which incurred fines totaling 6,157,127 euros.
Hardalias declined to say whether the lockdown will be lifted after the December 7 new deadline for the lockdown, commenting only that this year Christmas celebrations will be different from other years.
Pandemic remains persistent
The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Greece is very persistent, observed Professor Vana Papaevangelou.
Despite the fact that the number of new infections in Greece is dropping, the epidemiological curve itself is still high, she added. However, according to the latest data released by the European Center for Disease Prevention & Control (ECDC), Greece stands in the 17th place for new infections in Europe and in the 16th place for its mortality rate; these figures are quite low compared to other European countries, she pointed out.
The number of new infections registered on Friday in Thessaloniki (545), in Attica (519) and in Larisa (106) are very high, while the 93 new cases in Serres and the 80 in Magnesia are also alarming, she noted.
The daily average of new coronavirus infections nationwide stands at approximately 2,000 so far this week, said the professor, while in some regions new cases are rising, despite the fact that Greece is currently in its third week of the general lockdown.
The median age of new infections has gone up slightly to 48 years, and the number of people over the age of 65 who were infected this week went up too, she added. This means that the national health system will remain under pressure throughout next week, by the continuing demands of hospitalizations and treatment, she underlined.
She also estimated that there are currently some 25,000 active coronavirus cases in Greece.
Fresh hospitalizations seem to be stabilizing, with some 4,500 patients currently treated for the virus in the country’s hospitals; a quarter of these are being treated at Thessaloniki’s hospitals. Even so, the numbers of people needing to come into hospitals and be kept in for treatment should begin to fall as of next week, she said.
Intensive care unit beds in northern Greece are nearly all occupied, while an 88 per cent of these across the country are occupied too. It is estimated that some 1,600 patients will need to be hospitalized over the next two weeks, of whom 250 will almost certainly require ICU treatment. “Fatalities are still on the rise, with an average of 85 deaths per day,” she noted.
According to a preventative action model released by the European Center for Disease Prevention & Control (ECDC), the hasty lifting of current restrictive measures will result in a sharp rise of infections, hospitalizations, and fatalities, stressed Papaevnagelou. But if measures are lifted when the virus is dispersing in the community at an even lower rate, then new infections will rise at a much slower pace.
Ceiling on test prices
The government imposed a ceiling on the cost of tests for the novel coronavirus to prevent profiteering, Commerce & Consumer Protection Secretary General Panagiotis Staboulidis said at the briefing.
Molecular tests (RT-PCR) will cost a maximum of 40 euros each and rapid tests (antigens) a maximum of 10 euros, he said.
The move came after “knowing that the public is widely making use of coronavirus tests either individually or as companies on behalf of their employees,” he noted, adding that “the majority of the market is suspended, and we are obliged to intervene institutionally before phenomena of unfounded revaluation and profiteering.”
Development & Investments Minister Adonis Georgiadis will table a related bill that will allow him to set ceilings on prices of goods and services, the secretary general said. He also reminded the public of the e-katanalotis platform (http://www.ekatanalotis.gr/), where supermarkets are obliged to list prices of products for the public to compare, and said Greece was the first country to activate the registry of reserves for health material. In addition, VAT tax was reduced from 24 pct to 6 pct in a wide selection of health-related products.
In an interview to Thema 104.6 FM earlier in the day, Staboulidis did not rule out the opening of the market after lockdown by geographic zones, depending on experts’ advice about viral loads.
The National Public Health Organization (EODY) on Friday announced 2,013 new confirmed coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, with 14 of these identified at the entry gates to the country.
Total novel coronavirus cases in Greece stand at 101,287, of which 4,865 are linked to travel abroad and 26,718 to already known cases.
In addition, 607 patients are intubated currently. Their median age is 65, a 79.7 pct have an underlying condition or are aged 70 or more, and 169 are women. Another 538 have been discharged from ICUs overall.
EODY also recorded another 101 deaths, bringing the total deaths to 2,102 since the start of the pandemic. Of the total, their median age was 80 years and 97 pct had an underlying condition and/or were aged 70 or more. In addition, 842 were women.