As Greece seeks to preempt a full-blown emergency by going into a second lockdown, the next 10 days are seen as a critical litmus test of the country’s National Health System (ESY).
According to government estimates, the restrictions that went into effect on Saturday will indeed lead to a decline in coronavirus transmission, which shot up drastically in the last week. However, the lifting of the lockdown, even in the good scenario, will not be total on the December 1 deadline. Life will return to normal in stages, with schools opening fully first, then retail shops and then restaurants, cafes and bars.
“As in first phase, when we acted fast and before other countries, we must do the same today. We must take action now. If we wait to act a week or two, we will get to the point where other countries are,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reportedly told associates before his lockdown decision. “We must take measures before the pressure on the health system becomes unbearable.”
The government’s assessment is that, despite the rapid increase in new cases and intubated patients, the health system will win its race against time, provided the necessary resilience is shown in the next few months, by which time a coronavirus vaccine may be available.
The government’s confidence that the health system will pull through was also shared by the head of the ICU Coordination and Development Committee, Anastasia Kotanidou, who is also president of the Society of Intensive Care and an Athens University Medical School professor.
Speaking to Kathimerini, her assessment was that the system will hold. “We are prepared for such situations. We are tired, but we will continue to provide our services to the best of our ability,” she said. “I hope that in 10 days we will start to see a drop in hospital and ICU admissions. Until then, the system will endure.”
To the end of meeting the challenges of the coming days, Health Ministry sources said that there are plans to further utilize military and private hospitals, and to open new intensive care beds. Already last Tuesday, ventilators and monitors were sent to northern Greece to activate units in hospitals that were closed. In the worst-case scenario, special wards such as those reserved for heart surgery patients and operating theaters will be converted into ICUs.