NEWS

Swine flu seen spreading faster

The spread of swine flu across Greece has been incredibly swift, with more than 200 cases confirmed in laboratory tests in the past week alone, an expert report revealed yesterday. According to the report by the Hellenic Center for Infectious Diseases Control (KEEL), some 520 people have been confirmed as having contracted the H1N1 virus in Greece. The report adds that the total number of Greek cases is probably much higher than this, as the aforementioned figure refers only to the results of the laboratory tests that are conducted on selected suspect cases. Meanwhile, there are fears that the rate of the flu’s spread will increase. European Commissioner for Health Affairs Androulla Vassiliou said that the spread of H1N1 is likely to accelerate significantly over the summer when tourist arrivals peak. Vassiliou, a Cypriot national, added that EU health ministers would be called to convene for an emergency summit in October to assess the state of affairs and decide on the most advisable course of action. In the meantime, Greek schools are expected to open as scheduled in the fall, though Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos said authorities «are ready to address any eventuality.» Swine flu, and the measures being taken to curb its spread and sensitize the public to its risks, yesterday became a political football. The leader of main opposition PASOK, George Papandreou, accused ruling New Democracy of a lack of serious planning, coordination and an inadequate public awareness campaign. During a meeting with PASOK cadres, Papandreou charged that this alleged shortfall could result in «unpredictable consequences for public health and for the smooth functioning of the economy and society at large.» Reacting to the criticism, Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos accused the opposition leader of «petty politicking.»