NEWS

Efforts to limit overcrowding as Covid cases keep going up

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Amid rising concerns about the stretched capacity of the Greek public health service as the number of coronavirus infections, and intubated patients, continues to rise, authorities are doing all they can to crack down on overcrowding on public transport and in city squares in a bid to avert the need for a lockdown.

Anastasia Kotanidou, a professor of intensive care and pulmonology at the University of Athens and government adviser, said that 107 intensive care beds in Athens have been set aside for patients with Covid-19, with 40 percent currently available, adding that another 42 beds would be made available in the coming days. However, the Panhellenic Medical Association warned that the public health service is “not ready” to respond to the second wave of the pandemic.

Meanwhile inspections by police at squares, where crowds gather after the closure of bars and restaurants at midnight, were the focus of a meeting at the Citizens’ Protection Ministry on Wednesday.

It was decided that inspections will be stepped up at squares though police are to take a mild stance, reminding people of a new regulation that came into effect on Monday capping public gatherings at nine people. “We have no intention of throwing young people out of squares but merely reminding them of their obligation to observe the measures,” a high-ranking ministry official told Kathimerini.

Overcrowding on public transport is equally worrying, with the head of the workers union of the Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA), Michalis Siorikis, referring to numerous instances of arguments involving passengers who refuse to wear face masks.

According to the managing director of the Urban Rail Transport Company (STASY), Nikos Hairetas, the biggest problem is on the platforms of central stations such as Syntagma, Omonia and Monastiraki, which are routinely busy. “That’s not something that we can easily find a solution to,” he said.

A joint initiative between OASA and the KTEL intercity bus services foresees KTEL coaches taking over bus routes outside the capital so that busy routes in central Athens can be increased and overcrowding eased. But it has yet to be implemented.