NEWS

Record number of Covid-19 infections

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A record number of daily coronavirus infections, 3,465, and a record number of patients on ventilators, 630, is worrying the government, which has asked doctors working in private clinics or private practice to volunteer to help overburdened National Health System hospitals.

Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias on Wednesday called on pathologists, general practitioners, lung specialists and anesthesiologists in the private sector to volunteer their services. By late afternoon, 45 had done so, far short of the 200 the ministry estimates that public hospitals need. According to the Athens Medical Association, there are 3,000 such specialists in private employment on its rolls.

If there are not enough volunteers, the health minister will ask Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to enforce mobilization.

It is not just that public hospitals’ beds designated for coronavirus patients are in short supply. Other patients’ needs are being put on the back burner and even emergency surgeries postponed.

The ministry has already decided to transfer patients, about 550 for now, to private clinics. Of those, 100 are coronavirus cases.

“The situation is difficult, but, so far, manageable,” said Nikos Papaefthymiou, head of EKAV, the national emergency medical assistance service.

The record number of new confirmed cases did not come as a surprise, but as a result of the number of tests conducted, more than 63,000 in the 24-hour period ending at 3 p.m. on Wednesday. The rate of positive tests was 5.5%, on a par with recent days; between 8-14 March, the positivity rate was 5.56%.

Attica, the capital region, accounted for more than half of the detected cases (1,701), while Thessaloniki, the second most populous region, in the north, was a distant second with 394.

More discouraging data come from chemical analysis of human waste, which is considered a better indicator of future cases than the random coronavirus tests; the so-called viral load is increasing dramatically, from 41% in the city of Larissa, in central Greece, to a staggering 1,000% in Hania, on the island of Crete. The viral load had stabilized from mid-February to March 7, experts say.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 227,247 confirmed coronavirus cases and 7,252 deaths.