NEWS

Alarm sounded over virus mutations

alarm-sounded-over-virus-mutations

Amid global concern over the emergence of mutated strains of the coronavirus, the Health Ministry in Athens has announced the creation of a nationwide network for the systematic monitoring of these variants.

The network includes laboratories at universities and hospitals that perform detection tests of SARS-CoV-2 as well as the National Public Health Organization (EODY), which are tasked with sending samples from around the country for further analysis to the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens (BRFAA).

“We are proceeding with the creation of a network for the strengthening of controls throughout Greece,” said Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias on Friday, after convening a meeting at the ministry attended by the head of BRFAA’s scientific council Dimitris Thanos, EODY President Panagiotis Arkoumaneas and epidemiology professors Sotiris Tsiodras, George Sourvinos, Dimitris Paraskevis and Gkikas Magiorkinis.

The system will be “a network of vigilance, surveillance and diagnosis of mutant strains, so that we can have correct epidemiological data,” he said. “This will allow us to have a proper epidemiological analysis and the government to take the appropriate decisions.”

For his part, Thanos stressed that the BRFAA has been conducting genomic surveillance of the Covid-19 pandemic in Greece and has the appropriate infrastructure and research experience, “so that we can make a complete genomic map of the various coronavirus strains.”

The Health Ministry initiative comes against the backdrop of the SARS-CoV-2 mutant strains that have recently been recorded in Europe, South Africa and Brazil, which have raised concerns among state authorities and the scientific community regarding the possible impact they could have both on the pandemic’s evolution and the effectiveness of vaccines.

Greece has already identified 26 cases of the British strain which is thought to be more contagious. In at least two cases, the individuals affected by this strain had not traveled abroad nor had they been in contact with people who had recently traveled.

In the bid to tackle the virus, the Health Ministry is working with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and Kikilias is expected to have talks with its director, Dr Andrea Ammon.