Arrivals through Greece’s northern land borders from countries with a high rate of coronavirus infections and large gatherings at village fetes and bars are threatening to derail the country’s remarkable progress in containing Covid-19, an infectious disease expert warned on Tuesday.
“The virus is here, waiting for us to slip up,” Professor Nikos Sipsas told Skai TV, in the wake of reports over the weekend that hundreds of residents and several politicians flouted physical distancing rules to attend a village festival in Aliartos in Viotia – the most recent of a growing number of similar incidents.
“If this situation continues, I believe it is just a matter of time before we have a sudden spike of dozens or even hundreds of infections after such a super-spreader event,” he said. “We are playing with fire.”
Sipsas indicated that bans on large public gatherings like the Aliartos fete may be considered if more such incidents are reported, while adding that authorities could also ponder a curfew on bars and nightclubs if overcrowding gets out of hand.
The academic pointed to data indicating that of the 450 or so new coronavirus cases reported since Greece opened its borders to foreign tourists last month, 120 could not been traced to travel or a known case, indicating that community transmission continues to be a risk.
Greeks have two choices, the professor said. “One is to have both the epidemic and to wreck the economy, because the economy will be destroyed if the government is forced to take additional measures. The other is to keep the epidemic in check by doing what we have to do as citizens in order to save our economy.”
A day after Greek health authorities reported 43 new coronavirus cases, of which 36 were among travelers and tourists tested at the crossing on the Greek-Bulgarian border, a Sipsas also warned of the dangers of imported cases.
“Promachonas, the crossing into northern Greece from countries where the epidemic is like a boiling pot, is a problem,” Sipsas said. “It is a significant danger for Greece.”