Greece: Tougher lockdown starts today – New measures announced

Owing to a spike in both new coronavirus infections and Covid-19 hospital admissions, stricter rules regarding citizen’s movement were announced at Wednesday’s regular live briefing by Deputy Minister for Civil Protection & Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias.

As of Thursday March 4, through Tuesday March 16, citizens will not be allowed to travel to beyond 2 kilometers from one’s home for supermarkets, food stores and other essential goods shops (text message permit #2) or for banks (text message permit #3), restricting movement to within their own municipalities.

Similarly, personal exercise (text message permit #6) or pet walking must be carried out close to one’s home; it will not be possible to carry out these activities beyond the limits of one’s municipality, the minister added.

Regarding citizens who claim they are paying a home visit to a person in need to offer assistance (text message permit #4), they will have to be able to provide clarifications in case of a random street check by authorities.

“We stay at home, in our neighborhood, and when we have to go out, we do so within the smallest possible distance”, stressed Hardalias.

Additionally, as of Thursday also, Attica Region and Thessaloniki Region will be classified as areas carrying a very high epidemiological risk, joined by the following regions: Achaia, Argolis, Arkadia, Arta, Boeotia, Chios, Corinth, Etoloakarnania, Evia (except Skyros island), Fthiotida, Heraklion (in Crete), Larissa, Lefkada (except Meganisi), Rhodes, Samos, Thesprotia, and the municipality of Kalymnos.

The overnight curfew in these areas until March 18 will start at 19:00 to 05:00, excepting Attica and Thessaloniki Regions, where the curfew will stay at remain 21:00-05:00.

Hardalias also reminded the public they were not allowed to loiter in parks, marinas, open sports areas.

At Larissa, the new rules concerning citizen’s movement will come into effect on Saturday, to allow citizens there to better deal with the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s earthquake.

Hospital admissions

The rate of hospital admissions during the past few days shows that “the health system has exceeded its limits both in infrastructure and in human resources,” Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said during a live briefing on the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday.

“In terms of Attica Region, the pressure on the National Health System has hit high-alarm levels,” he added, commenting on hospital admissions that saw a 36.33 percent rise within 24 hours. The emergency plan going into effect is the same used in Northern Greece and Thessaloniki in November, with stricter regulations on movement.

Kikilias noted that “younger people are reaching ventilation stage, despite the fact they have no underlying conditions,” and said the British strain of SARS-CoV-2 was spreading in the general population “at very high rates, regardless of geographical area, gender or age group.”

In Attica Region in particular, the region with the highest population in Greece, there are already 1,528 Covid-19 patients on regular beds. During the last 19 days, he noted, another 449 beds dedicated to Covid-19 cases had been set up, along with 90 such beds in ICUs. This brings the total of simple Covid-19 beds to 2,122 and to 319 ICU beds. Of the latter, 289 are already occupied, the minister said. Additional beds for Covid-19 patients are being added to Ippokratio, Evangelismos, Tzanio and Asklipio Voulas hospitals, he revealed.

“We have increased the number of our beds by 40 pct,” in the last few weeks, he said, while adding that non-Covid patients would be redistributed to other hospitals, including the private sector. NIMTS hospital will switch to a non-Covid hospital in order to accomodate pathology clinics in Evangelismos, Gennimatas (State Hospital) and Ippokratio, which will be dedicated exclusively to Covid-19 patients. The latter will be assisted by another 16 pathologists and pulmonary specialists from private hospitals who have volunteered to help out.

The Erikos Dinan (Henri Dunant) hospital is volunteering as supportive hospital for non-Covid cases, and will operate with 215 regular beds and 24 ICU beds, joining the system of the emergency hospitals on a daily rotation. Essentially, Kikilias said, it will replace Sismanoglio hospital, which will be dedicated to Covid-19 patients with its 301 beds. At Sismanoglio, the surgery operation rooms and recovery rooms will be turned over to Covid-19 patients as well.

The Onassis hospital wil receive all cardiac cases regardless of severity and the Thriasio and Asklipio hospitals will be supported by private hospitals and clinics in their pathology sections for non-Covid cases.

In terms of the private sector, it has already turned over 120 ICU beds for non-Covid cases in Attica.

Speaking of vaccinations, Kikilias said that by the end of March it is expected that 1.7 million will have been carried out. He added that the AstraZeneca shot will be available for over-65-year-olds in Greece and reminded that April will see a great rise in vaccine deliveries by Pfizer, which has committed to 1 million doses in that month.