Greek authorities’ main concern is now the timeline for a return to normalcy, after a year of the pandemic.
The economy cannot withstand many more months of lockdowns and increasing coronavirus fatigue is gripping the population.
Experts say the return to normalcy will happen when “herd immunity” is achieved. For that to happen, they say, 70% of the population must be vaccinated. Then, of course, there are questions of how long the immunity lasts, whether the disease will recur, and so on.
According to a team of researchers at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki who have developed a Covid-19 risk evaluation model, the vaccination of 70% of the population, and thus herd immunity, will be achieved in November, provided there are 1 million vaccinations per month.
Under this caveat, the percentage of the vaccinated population, now standing at 9%, will reach 30% at the end of May, 38% in June, 46% in July, 54% in August and 62% in September.
By the end of May, a “wall of immunity” for the most vulnerable groups – the elderly and those suffering from serious underlying diseases – will have been built, the researchers say.
“[The wall] doesn’t mean complete freedom but at least means the likelihood of lockdown becomes remote,” says Dimosthenis Sarigiannis, professor of environmental engineering at Aristotle University.
There are already 720,000 vaccination appointments for March and more are expected to be made for population categories given less priority.
For the time being, the Athens area remains under a strict lockdown, with most retail shops closed, a 9 p.m. curfew on weekdays and 6 p.m. on weekends and a ban on most domestic travel.
The lockdown has been extended to March 8, but is likely to be extended again, to March 15.
Analysis of human waste, a better indicator of the transmission of the disease than testing, shows that rates are still high. Moreover, the UK variant of the coronavirus has been spreading and the number of people admitted to hospitals and intensive care units is rising, straining the resources of the National Health System.
New cases remained at high levels Saturday, with 1,630 confirmed for the 24-hour period ending at 3 p.m. Saturday.