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‘Too soon’ to discuss lockdown easing, say health experts

Lockdown measures that went into force on November 7 appear to be bearing fruit as the number of new coronavirus infections drops, but it is unlikely they will be eased next week, Alkiviadis Vatopoulos, a professor of microbiology and one of the experts on the government’s advisory committee, said on Tuesday.


“We have seen a small ray of hope in recent days with the new cases, but this does not mean we can relax,” the University of Western Attica professor told Skai television, a day after the National Public Health Organization (EODY) reported 1,044 new cases on Monday, down from 2,013 on Friday, 1,747 on Saturday and 1,193 on Sunday.

Despite the gradual decline of transmission, daily infections are still too high to justify easing restrictions on public movement and economic activity, Vatopoulos said, adding that they would have to drop to between 300 and 500 a day before any discussion about ending the lockdown can take place in earnest.

The academic, who specializes in public health, said that the course of infections and hospital admissions should provide a clearer picture of the country’s progress by the end of the week.

Vatopoulos’ comments echoed those of infectious disease expert and fellow committee member Vana Papaevangelou, who told Monday’s public Health Ministry briefing that despite the contraction in new cases in many parts of the country, the health system is still under tremendous pressure, particularly in northern and central Greece.

“The extent of the virus and the pressure on intensive care units at the country’s hospitals are the key parameters,” she said, explaining that more progress must be made in both these areas before nationwide restrictions can be eased.

According to EODY’s data, the novel coronavirus is present in almost all of Greece’s 74 regional units, with 18 of those – mainly in northern and central Greece – still struggling with high transmission rates. Monday’s numbers also showed that 600 Covid-19 patients are on respirators and ICU occupancy in Thessaly has reached 100% and beds are almost full in northern Greece as well.