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Experts not ruling out longer lockdown after new record in cases, deaths

With Greece having entered arguably the toughest phase of its battle with the coronavirus, experts are expected to propose an extension to the lockdown in December if the exponential growth rates experienced by many regions does not abate.

 

According to experts, the question now is not whether Greeks will celebrate New Year’s Eve and Christmas, but whether Greece will have empty intensive care beds for patients with coronavirus.

Greece on Thursday received the worst progress report so far, recording all-time highs of 3,316 new cases, 50 deaths and 310 patients on ventilators, with authorities indicating that the second wave will not be ebbing anytime soon.

Unless something spectacular changes, the scientists of the government’s committee of experts are expected to suggest an extension of the lockdown for after November 30, as three weeks is not considered enough time to control the epidemic.

Speaking to Kathimerini, Athanasios Tsakris, professor of microbiology, vice rector of Athens University and member of the committee of experts, said, “Our experience from this epidemic is that if a limit has been passed – that is, if shows exponential growth rates – it is very difficult to ‘go back.’”

“In this case, too, a very long period of implementation of the restrictive measures is required to see their results. This has been shown by the experience of the first wave, especially in countries where the epidemic had already progressed when national lockdowns were implemented,” he said.

What’s more, the attempt to restore society to a partial normality will be hampered by the weather conditions, since low temperatures favor the spread of the virus. According to Tsakris, it has become more contagious since the first epidemic wave. “From the first months of the pandemic in our country, more than 70% of the samples examined in our laboratory carry the mutation that has increased its transmissibility,” he said.

Meanwhile on Thursday, party leaders crossed swords in Parliament during a debate, which at times got personal, to discuss the government’s measures.

Prime Minster Kyriakis Mitsotakis admitted that tougher restrictions should have been taken a week ago in Thessaloniki to avoid the rampant spread of the virus. “We could have imposed the use of face masks everywhere earlier, limited evening entertainment earlier, taken measures in Thessaloniki earlier,” he said. “We tried many plans but they were betrayed by the behavior of some people,” he said. “The main source for the spread was the entertainment of young people.”

SYRIZA opposition leader Alexis Tsipras accused Mitsotakis of being out of touch. For his part, the PM called Tsipras a “failed prime minister.”