Concern over health service infections


Health authorities are increasingly concerned about the ability of the health service to treat a rising number of coronavirus patients as the frequency with which doctors, nurses and administrative staff at hospitals are testing positive for the virus is growing.

In a bid to tackle the problem and ensure that the front line of Greece’s response to the Covid-19 threat is not depleted, it was decided Wednesday that only health workers with symptoms will be quarantined.

Other employees, who may have been infected but show no symptoms, will not be required to go into quarantine as long as they observe hygiene rules. 

The decision was announced on Wednesday during a joint press conference by Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias and Health Ministry representative Sotiris Tsiodras. 

Tsiodras announced 31 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total to 418. Of those infected, 79 are in hospital while 13 are in critical condition and 14 have been released following treatment, he said, adding that the average age of those infected stands at around 70.

In 64 of the cases, the source of infection has not been identified, indicating transmission in the community. 

Hardalias meanwhile confirmed a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people as part of the government’s ongoing efforts to curb the spread of the virus. Offenders will be fined 1,000 euros, he said. 

According to the national federation of hospital workers’ unions, more than 44 health workers have so far tested positive to the virus and are in quarantine while some 300 who may have been exposed are in isolation.

The duration of quarantine for health workers is seven days rather than the 14-day rule for others, amid concerns that the health sector will be depleted to the extent that it cannot respond to the crisis and due to the fact that most sufferers display symptoms in the first seven days. 

Up until Wednesday, more than 6,000 samples had been tested, according to Tsiodras, who said that the supply of reagents was still adequate despite reports of shortages.

The behavior of the public is key, however, he said. “We must think of ourselves as if we are carriers of the virus,” Tsiodras said, adding that “a positive or negative test does not change that strategy.”

He cited a study carried out by a team of epidemiologists led by Athens University professor Vana Sypsa which used a math model factoring in the death rate and number of serious cases to calculate that the actual number of cases in Greece stands at between 2,000 and 3,000.