NEWS

Warning amid rise in Covid infections

PENNY BOULOUTZA

TAGS: Coronavirus, Health

In his first televised briefing in nearly two months, the government’s chief epidemiologist Sotiris Tsiodras on Tuesday stressed the need for strict observance of health measures to prevent a new spike in coronavirus infections from getting out of hand as authorities confirmed 121 new cases.

“Great vigilance is needed,” Tsiodras told journalists in what was described as an exceptional appearance, his first since May 26 when daily briefings on the course of the pandemic stopped following an improvement. “Things can easily spiral out of control,” he added, noting that a continued increase of cases at the current rate could bring a second wave of the virus within two weeks. “Over the coming weeks, I hope that we don’t give in and that we succeed.”

In a bid to underscore the gravity of the situation, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis might issue a televised message to the nation on the need to show greater caution, reports said on Tuesday.

Although foreign arrivals have contributed to the new spike, Tsiodras said the data indicates that most infections are domestic, pointing to widespread community transmission. Indeed, the epidemiologist said Greece’s coronavirus R number (which measures the rate of the virus' reproduction) has risen to 1, from 0.4 in mid-July. 

“Each case brings, on average, another case,” Tsiodras said. “If this continues, each new case entering a community will constitute a new chain of continued infection,” he said, adding that efforts must be made to ensure the R number drops below 1.

Tsiodras, who wore a face mask at Tuesday's press conference, recommended the use of masks in crowded open areas when there is not enough social distancing as well as all closed areas. 

Certain additional restrictions were announced at the same press conference by Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias. The opening hours of nightclubs in areas that have seen localized spikes in infections are to be curbed. Also, a limit of 100 people at weddings, baptisms and funerals is to be extended through August 31. 

Moreover, as part of continuing restrictions at the land border, entry will be forbidden between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. daily at the Kakavia crossing, while all those seeking to enter Greece from Albania as of August 16 will be required to self-quarantine for a week.

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