NEWS

Covid ICUs reach 72% capacity, but the party hasn’t stopped

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Greece’s coronavirus referral hospitals admitted 424 new Covid-19 patients from Saturday to Sunday evening and their intensive care units reached 72% capacity on Sunday, though the deteriorating picture appears to be doing little to prevent risky public gatherings and parties.

“The reduction in ICUs will be gradual… probably at least 10 days away,” Matina Pagoni, the head of the union representing hospital doctors, told Skai TV on Monday morning, indicating that hospitals expect to see admissions continue rising for at least another week before they start dropping. The problem is particularly acute in the Greek capital, where referral hospitals admitted 163 Covid-19 patients between Sunday night and Monday morning, and intubations pushed intensive care capacity to 95%,

Pagoni and other experts appear increasingly reserved about the likelihood of good news in March given a spate of recent incidents of illegal parties, crowded protest rallies and other such potential super-spreader events.

“Sure, people are tired, but just look at what’s happening in hospitals. We’re trying to flatten the curve and people need to show more understanding of the problems we face,” Patras University infectious disease expert Charalambos Gogos told Open TV. 

“We must step up, so we can make progress and free up our hospitals,” added the professor in the western port city where police shut down a Carnival party of around 100 people on Saturday night and issued fines worth 47,000 euros.

Commenting to state broadcaster ERT on the subject of such violations – which were also reported from the northern Greek town of Xanthi and other parts of the country over the long weekend – genetics professor Manolis Dermitzakis warned that such gatherings are particularly dangerous as they tend to trigger a “mob mentality” that throws caution to the wind.

“You don’t need to be a genius to understand that we shouldn’t be throwing parties,” Panagiotis Gargalianos, the head of the Hellenic Society for Infectious Disease, said similar in comments to broadcaster Mega. 

“People cannot stop everything, but they do need to exercise common sense,” he said.

Gogos was also concerned by the potential impact on transmission of several large protest rallies organized in recent days, saying that “this is not the time” for such demonstrations. “Rallies need to be organized in a different way,” he said.

He also expressed reservations about whether the current policy mix is effective given public fatigue and the combined pressure on the economy and the health system. The lockdown system, he said, “cannot continue as is if the rules are constantly being broken.”

In a similar vein, Gargalianos said that “taking measures is not the issue; upholding them is.”

Gargalianos also attributed the steady rise in new infections despite restrictions, in part, on the new, more contagious variant of the virus first identified in the United Kingdom. “The variant has increased transmission,” he said.