Pressure continued to mount on the National Health System (ESY) on Friday morning, particularly in northern Greece, as more than 4,000 coronavirus patients were admitted to public hospitals around the country, of whom more than 550 were in intensive care units.
Indicatively, the occupancy rate of Covid ICUs increased ominously on Friday, exceeding 80%.
“Next week will also be difficult,” stressed Vana Papaevangelou, a professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Athens University and a member of the Experts Committee, adding that ESY will continue to be under pressure “for at least two more weeks.”
What’s more, Friday’s requisition of private clinics also suggested the situation is at a critical point. A dire picture was also painted by Friday’s data, which again showed a particularly high epidemiological burden with 2,581 confirmed cases. A daily record number of 72 deaths was also reported, raising total fatalities to 1,419 while 519 patients were intubated.
Papaevangelou attributed the surge, despite the two weeks of severe restrictive measures – and almost three in Thessaloniki – to the relaxed behavior of some members of the public, “even in the middle of a lockdown.”
However, she said there are signs the epidemic is beginning to stabilize. Health experts have concurred that the lockdown did not yield the fast results that were expected. Nonetheless there is room for optimism, strange as that may seem, as the hitherto uncontrolled dispersion and transmissibility indices in Athens and, mainly, Thessaloniki, which is the big problem, have started to fall.
Indeed, experts believe that if the measures are strictly observed, the first results of the lockdown will become apparent as of the coming week. The lockdown has had a critical impact according to Athens Medical Center professor and infectious disease expert Nikolaos Sipsas, who said that had it not been enforced, “the cases would have been over 7,000 per day.”
However, government spokesman Stelios Petsas announced an expected extension of existing restrictions on Friday, as, he said, the persistence of high infection and transmission rates leave no room for allowing any social activity in early December.
Besides, he stressed on state-run ERT, the government never talked about a timetable. “We never talked about a specific schedule, we talked about phases of a gradual return to a form of normalcy within December,” he said, adding that the partial lifting of the lockdown on December 1 “is not realistic.”