Update – 17/12/2021
December 17, 2021
December 17, 2021
As of the latest update by the Greek authorities, the total number of confirmed Covid-19 diagnosed cases in Greece 1,022,141. 96 new deaths were reported raising the total number to 19,651. The number of patients treated in intensive care units is currently 692. 4,696 new cases were announced yesterday in Greece. 1,464 of the new cases were found in the Attica region and 797 new cases in the Thessaloniki region.
Foreign travelers can opt to show a rapid antigen test or a PCR test to enter Greece, the country said on Thursday, amending a rule it announced only the day before to help curb the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Health authorities said on Wednesday that the measure – which will be in effect from December 19 – would require a PCR test no more than 48 hours old.
Previously, proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 or negative testing were necessary to travel to Greece.
On Thursday, slightly broader options for the testing were announced – with all travelers aged over five needing to show either a PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before their arrival or a rapid test 24 hours before arriving.
“The Omicron variant prompted our country to take one-off measures for foreign visitors,” government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said.
He said the restrictions would apply for the Christmas period and were aimed to delay the spread of the pandemic to give Greek people more time to get booster shots.
In the aftermath of the publication of a study this week that found regional disparities in the quality of Covid-19 care and that mortality rates in intensive care units are negatively affected by the high numbers of patients, one of its authors lamented that it was being weaponized for political purposes.
The political fallout has occurred as the number of cases of the Omicron variant in Greece grew to 17 on Thursday, with experts expecting a surge after the holidays.
“It causes great sorrow to a scientist but also to ordinary citizens that an older scientific analysis is used in a political confrontation,” said Sotiris Tsiodras, head of infectious diseases at the National Public Health Organization, amid an acrimonious blame game that has ensued between opposition parties and the government.
The study, co-authored by Theodoros Lytras, professor of public health at the European University of Cyprus, also noted the high death rate among patients intubated outside ICUs.
For its part, the government on Thursday insisted via its spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou that Prime Minister Kyriakios Mitsotakis did not know about the study beforehand, and called on main opposition SYRIZA not to belittle scientific research for partisan gain.
“The scientific study was not known to the prime minister, it had not been handed over to the prime minister or any of his associates before its official publication,” Oikonomou said, adding that the study “reiterates well-known findings of increased mortality when the health system is under pressure but also weaknesses in certain areas of the country.”
The prime minister himself, Oikonomou stressed, has publicly stated that the National Health System needs restructuring.
He went on to say that “the intubation of patients outside the ICU is done out of necessity in order to provide them with the best possible care until it is possible to transport them to the intensive care unit.”
The study took center stage during Thursday’s House budget debate, with SYRIZA deputy Panagiotis Kouroumplis accusing the government of “murdering thousands of people.”
However, this led to the former minister’s expulsion from the party’s parliamentary group by a reportedly outraged SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras. Kouroumplis’ comments were decried across the board by Parliament Speaker Kostas Tasoulas, fellow SYRIZA deputies and other lawmakers.
Greek health authorities have confirmed 17 cases of the Omicron Covid variant in the country, the National Organization for Public Health (EODY) said Thursday.
The variants were identified in the regional units of Lassithi, Athens central sector, Iraklio and Laconia and covered specimens from the period 6 November to 13 December.
Speaking about Omicron at a regular briefing on Thursday, Professor Vana Papaevangelou, a member of the Health Ministry’s committee of experts, said “it is clear” it will eventually become the dominant variant in all countries, noting that it already accounts for 50% of new cases in London.
A leading health expert has warned of a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, driven by the highly-infectious Omicron variant, after the holiday season, calling for stricter measures to curb the spread.
“The holidays will be followed by a tsunami of infections,” George Pavlakis, a distinguished physician, research scientist based in the US, told Skai radio on Thursday.
Pavlakis said authorities should impose fresh restrictions to brace for a surge in cases, including an earlier closure of schools for the winter break and stricter measures for bars and restaurants. He did not provide more details.
“The situation at ICUs is out of control; the number of cases must be brought down; we need stricter measures everywhere; we must reduce social contacts,” he said, warning that, at the current rate, the number of Covid-related deaths will exceed 25,000 by Easter.
A total of 19,553 people have died in Greece due to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to official figures released on Wednesday.
In more detail, the 4,696 new cases detected per Regional Unit: