CORONAVIRUS

Pandemic’s grip is getting tighter

pandemic-s-grip-is-getting-tighter

With new coronavirus cases and patients on ventilators at record levels, hospitals are struggling to keep beds and intensive care units available.

Meanwhile, experts warn that the viral road is still increasing and no letup in the crisis is expected, at least over the next 10 days.

The National Public Health Organization announced 3,073 new coronavirus cases Thursday, less than the record 3,465 detected a day before. However, the record number of patients on ventilators rose to 645, from 630 the previous day.

Almost half the cases (1,524) were detected in the Athens area, with Thessaloniki a distant second at 304.

The number of new admissions to hospitals was 525, against a seven-day average of 453, which means that the number of people in intensive care will also increase.

When a bed in a specialized coronavirus ICU becomes available, due to the patient having recovered or died, it is booked within seconds, through an online platform, for the next patient waiting. The bed is cleaned, disinfected and ready in minutes. Demand in the past few days has skyrocketed, with patients on portable ventilators waiting in rooms reserved for less severe Covid cases, doctors say.

According to the Federation of Public Hospital Employees, all available specialized ICUs were full at 11 Athens area hospitals yesterday; there were only four ICU beds available in the city of Patra, western Greece, and nine in the northern city of Thessaloniki (out of a total of 92).

The spike in cases is almost exclusively due to the so-called UK mutation of the virus.

“The new mutation is extremely infectious. It is pants on fire. If Thessaloniki was burned with the old virus variant, things for us in Athens are unpredictable,” said a doctor at the Sotiria Hospital. “We are preparing the surgery recovery room to put intubated patients there,” added Malvina Lada, a pathologist at the Sismanogleio Hospital.

There is still a dearth of doctors at public hospitals, not so much to treat Covid patients, but to take over cases, including emergency surgeries, that have been given less priority. A call for doctors in private practice to volunteer their services has gone largely unheeded and the Athens Medical Association is offering to forgive every volunteer five years of membership dues.