Medical personnel transfer a COVID-19 patient from a state to a private clinic which has been appropriated, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. [Achilleas Chiras/AP]
Even though the first substantial signs that the pandemic is relenting are expected early next week, health experts insist that the lifting of restrictive measures will depend on the health system’s ability to cope and operate normally.
Despite the fact that cases are decreasing, intubations remain high, pushing the health system to the brink. Given this situation and based on the existing data, even the partial lifting of restrictions on December 7 is being ruled out. It is expected to be postponed by at least one week, to December 14, with the prevailing scenario being a gradual opening of retail stores.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said as much at Monday’s cabinet meeting. “Our path may seem slower, but it will be safer and more secure. And above all, it must be a road without setbacks,” he said. “We should not talk with dates, but with data,” he said.
What was also hinted by Mitsotakis’ comments on Monday is that the government’s goal is now clear: to avoid a third lockdown at all costs as it would be catastrophic for the economy.
In order for this to happen, the reopening of the economy must be done very conservatively, which means that the prospect of restaurants opening for the Christmas holidays is becoming increasingly less likely. What’s more, a number of experts to whom the government has been turning are calling for the measures to be extended even after December 21.
The question of schools opening remains up in the air, as it will be too close to the holidays and they would only operate for a little more than a week.
Meanwhile on Monday, health authorities announced that the number of new infections eased but deaths and intubations remained high.
The National Public Health Organization reported 1,044 new cases, raising the overall count to 105,271. Six-hundred patients were intubated, while 85 people died, bringing the pandemic’s toll to 2,406.
Indicative of the pressure the health system is currently under is that hospitals on Monday in the northern Greek region of Macedonia had only five ICU beds available, while the occupancy rate in Thessaly was 100%.
In addition to ICUs, the indicators monitored by specialists are the number of new diagnoses, the percentage of positive tests and the virus’ reproduction number (Rt).