Greece is one of the first countries to supply the home self tests to each citizen for free as an additional tool in the national strategy against the spread of Covid-19, Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister Akis Skertsos commented on Sunday, in an interview with Skai radio.
The minister pointed out that 35 teachers and school pupils had so far reported testing positive for Covid-19, who would have otherwise attended school on Monday without realising that anything was wrong.
He emphasised that the tests were widely used in Europe and elsewhere and their usefulness was proven, adding that the figures on Saturday indicated that roughly 380,000 to 400,000 individuals had been supplied a test since distribution to highschool children and school staff began on Thursday.
“…therefore, the process of supplying pharmacies and the public has gone very well. We have posted a series of instructions on the self-testing.gov.gr platform that it would be good for parents and children to consult,” he said, noting that there was a full information pack, including a video and FAQs, explaining the process.
He described the self tests as an “early warning” indicator, especially for asymptomatic carriers who make up roughly one third of those infected with the novel coronavirus.
Skertsos said the government had opted for a gradual rollout of the self tests to the market to ensure a smooth distribution and familiarise pharmacists with the product, as well as the public. After teachers and school children, the tests will next be supplied to those working in the retail sector that come into contact with customers, followed by the food service sector, take away staff, transport workers and some sections of the public sector.
He predicted that a full lifting of the main restrictions on economic activity will be possible in May, after Easter, when the most vulnerable groups will have received at least one dose of a vaccine, but that self-protection and social distancing measures will continue to apply during 2021 as long as parts of the population are still unvaccinated.
“We must carefully choose who we socialise with, as long as levels of immunity are not high,” he added.
Skertsos went on to report encouraging signs that the epidemiological burden in Greece was starting to level off and decline, including a reduction in the number of cases and a lower infection rate in the population in recent days, as well as a slowing of hospital admissions.
He noted that there was now a “new reality” with respect to living with the virus, since cases will continue to be many but there will also be protection from the vaccine and mass testing.
“By Easter, we will have vaccinated at least two million with at least one dose, therefore a significant part will have started to acquire antibodies, another part will have already had the disease and we have the self tests and other tests…Therefore, there is a greater capability to better control those who fall ill and for them to take measures,” he added.
On whether the national health system was able to cope and people who need them had access to ICUs, Skertsos said that the system was providing the necessary care but was also at its limits, stressing that everyone must be “extremely careful”.
Greece has ordered more than enough vaccines doses to cover the population, Skertsos said, adding that population immunity required percentages between 70-80 pct of the total.
“From that point on, epidemiologically, we will no longer be talking about measures like the ones we took in the last year,” he said, explaining that this meant an end of lockdowns.
“From mid May we can start talking on the basis of the vaccination rate, the population that has been vaccinated but also the course of the virus, which we know becomes less transmissible because of the good weather…we will be able to go, permanently, to an organised and safe opening,” he said.