Athens.- (ANA-MPA, GreekNewsOnline)
Greece registered 901 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, of which 6 were identified at the country’s entry points, said the National Public Health Organization (EODY). All cases in Greece total 130,485 of which 5,196 relate to travel from abroad and 38,050 to already confirmed infection cases.
A total of 534 individuals are intubated. Their median age is 66 years, 77.3 pct have an underlying condition or are aged 70 or more and 165 of them are women. Another 797 have been discharged from ICUs since the start of the pandemic.
EODY also registered 58 new deaths, bringing coronavirus fatalities to 4,102 in total. The median age of all fatalities was 79 years, 95.7 pct had an underlying condition and/or were aged 70 or above, and 1,654 were women.
The country is expected to pass the Christmas holiday season in a lockdown that is even stricter in area like Kozani in western Macedonia and western Attica. At Kozani region, there are currently 397 active cases of infection, while 81 people are hospitalized – their median age is 53. Some 816 close contacts were revealed by contacts tracing there, who are all self-isolating at home. Of the 397 cases, 199 are in Kozani proper and 134 in Eordea.
The Kozani region, northwestern Greece, went under tighter lockdown restrictions at 06:00 on Saturday and for the next seven days.
The set of extra measures at Kozani – after high coronavirus infection rates in the area – were announced by Deputy Minister for Civil Protection & Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias on Friday.
The curfew at Kozani region will begin at 18:00 (3 hours earlier than usual in other Greek regions) and run to 05:00 the following morning. Employees who need to go to work will need special permits issued by their employers.
The entire retail sector will be shut down, including open-air markets (laikes). Bookshops, hairdressers and barbers, nail and beauty salons, which are open with restrictions everywhere else, will also be closed. In addition, customers will not be allowed to pick up online orders (click-away method) over the next week.
Churches and all worship places will be shut and all services banned except for funerals, which will be limited to 10 attendees.
Citizens in these municipalities will be rapid-tested en masse by the National Public Health Organization’s (EODY) medical staff, while local workers, especially at the region’s industrial zones, will be tested over 10 days (on the 1st, 5th and 10th days).
Workers at local nursing homes will be rapid-tested every 5 days.
Finally, face masks wil be distributed to everyone at Kozani region, free of charge.
Medical teams from the National Public Health Organization (EODY), together with Civil Protection staff and health experts, are in Kozani to help contain the situation.
TSIPRAS ON WEST ATTICA
SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance party leader Alexis Tsipras accused the government of “criminal negligence and managerial incompetence” for the outbreak of coronavirus cases in the West Attica region, where he visited on Saturday.
Tsipras met with Elefsina Mayor Argyris Ekonomou and also with West Attica Region’s Vice-Governor Lefteris Kosmopoulos, to whom he said that the pandemic’s local spike is not the result of people not observing the safety measures or being disobedient to restrictive protocols, but rather the result of a lack of sufficient protective measures for workers at these industrial areas; he called the harshness of the latest lockdown rules in the three municipalities of west Attica “unprecedented.”
The Civil Protection Secretariat on Friday imposed a tougher version of the current lockdown in three West Attica municipalities -Aspropyrgos, Elefsina and Mandra- shutting down the entire retail sector without ‘click-away’ exceptions and adding three hours to the evening curfew.
“The government is passing on the responsibility for the local spike in new infections to the local people,” said Tsipras.
Protection measures in large working spaces at industrial areas like Aspropyrgos and Elefsina, and also at northern Greece’s Pella and Pieria, are totally insufficient to virtually non-existent, he pointed out. Moreover, there is no Labor Inspectorate in these areas, “it has been nulled”, while some workers claim, he added, “that factory managers are blackmailing them into keeping up with shifts despite mass infections in their premises.”
“It is then obvious,” concluded Tsipras, that “when a worker is fully aware that upon contracting the virus, he will have to stay at home for 14 days, followed by a month of unpaid overtime to make up for his self-isolation, it is highly likely that he is pushed, by current labor laws and bosses, to keep his infection to himself.”
PETSAS ON THE PANDEMIC
Diligent observance of all coronavirus safety restrictions and measures over the Christmas season is essential, said government spokesperson Stelios Petsas in an interview with SKAI TV on Saturday.
“It is most important to not let our guard down amid the pandemic, and to keep up with standing health protocols,” he stressed, “especially as we are approaching the launch of coronavirus vaccinations.”
The government is unfolding its strategy for running both a vaccination program and parallel safety measures, he noted, in collaboration with health experts, “thus bridging a period of several months in the first half of 2021.”
The most significant attitude that all citizens should pursue over the festive season and in coming months, is to keep a small social circle, he pointed out. Therefore, people should not invite third parties to their homes over the Christmas holidays, that is people outside of their close families. “You can bring over another four people, but these four people should be from within the broader family,” he noted.
He also clarified that there is no current discussion for more lenient curfew hours, and he mentioned the region of Kozani, where tough lockdown restrictions went into effect on Saturday; he also referred to the three municipalities in west Attica region, where the same set of intensified lockdown restrictions was imposed on Friday.
Petsas implied that this strategy of stricter localized lockdowns might be necessary for other areas in the country, where the epidemiological burden is spiking. “It is rather important for us to be on standby to contain local clusters where the coronavirus might disperse rapidly in a short length of time,” he stressed, “while tight restrictions stay in effect until January 7.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will be vaccinated against the coronavirus before year’s end, he also made known, and that the Premier’s proposal to party leaders is to all be vaccinated together, “so as to make a good example out of it.”
The coronavirus vaccine is not mandatory, he clarified, and will be free of charge. “We will have approval for the vaccine on December 21-22 by European health agencies, and it will arrive in Greece on December 26-27, therefore the Prime Minister will be one of the first few to be inoculated, before the end of the year.”
The plan is to have a very large portion of people in vulnerable groups vaccinated until February-March, Petsas noted.
Greek doctor champions jab
A Greek doctor who was among the first frontline health workers to receive the coronavirus vaccination in the United Kingdom last week urged the public on Saturday to set aside fears of possible side effects.
“Whatever the side effects may be, they are nothing compared to being intubated and spending five days in intensive care,” Giorgos Sakellion, an anesthesiologist working in a Covid-19 ward in the east England country of Essex, told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.
“The relative risks of the jab are much smaller compared to getting sick,” he added.
The 54-year-old doctor was given the first dose of the vaccine on December 14, with the second dose planned on January 5.
“The only discomfort I felt, which is similar to when you get the flu jab, was a bit of pain around the injection area and the feeling of a heavy arm for a day afterwards,” Sakellion said.