Earlier this week news outlets reported on the New Democracy government’s concerns the third wave of coronavirus might be fueled by a stopgap COVID-19 strategy. The administration has had to do a balancing act to keep the country’s economy afloat, while at the same time pushing back COVID cases.
A recent easing of health measures, the perilously slow vaccine campaign, and new variants of the coronavirus from the United Kingdom and South Africa have put the administration in an untenable fix. In Athens, in particular, the case counts rose almost immediately once the government eased restrictions on shopping.
Meanwhile, Greece’s hammered National Health System (ESY) is in no position for another wave of infections. Kathimerini reported decently Health Ministry officials seeing 50-80 hospitalizations a day in Attica and 550 Intensive Care Unit beds with ventilators being used, a jump of 95 in a week as of Feb. 1.
Also, in a recent teleconference with Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias, his deputy Vassilis Kontozamanis, Health Ministry Secretary-General for Primary Healthcare Marios Themistokleous, General Secretary of Health Services Ioannis Kotsiopoulos, and the President of Greece’s ambulance service, Nikos Papaefstathiou, the potential for a third wave and reactions were discussed.
The resulting decision was to create a new operational plan to increase the capacity of hospitals for the treatment of COVID-19, perhaps even including using private hospitals to ease the pressure. According to the Kathimerini story, that plan is modeled on the one followed in Thessaloniki, where during the second wave, ICU units had a 400 percent increase in admissions, although private facilities in Greece’s second-largest city were used then.
On the vaccine front, as of Feb. 1, another 21,841 vaccinations were conducted, bringing the total to 290,947. This is way behind the schedule, but officials say another 90,000 doses coming from US pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna. The government claims a total of more than 1,650,000 vaccines will be given by the end of March. Some 410,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the United Kingdom will come by the end of February and another 540,000 doses by the end of March.
That is still far short of the goal to inoculate 70 percent of the population of 10.5 million, or 7.35 million people that health officials said is needed to begin to control the pandemic sometime this year.
Meanwhile, new cases of COVID-19 exploded yesterday with 1,261 cases reported. This was an uptick of 718 more than the 543 cases reported on Monday. 22 more people succumbed to the deadly disease in a 24 hour period, as well. The vast majority of cases are being recorded in Attica.