“Over the last few days, the downward trend of cases observed in recent weeks has been halted. At the same time, the emergence of the Delta mutation raises concerns,” said Government Spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni during a press briefing on Monday.
Peloni reiterated Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ call for everyone to get the jab.
“Vaccination saves lives,” she said, after pointing to the fact that 99 percent of those in intensive care units or who died of Covid aged 60-80 had not been vaccinated.
Greek infectious diseases expert Gkikas Magiorkinis confirmed the increase on his twitter account with a week-by-week comparison. Indicatively, there was a 262 percent increase this Sunday at 619 cases compared to last (236 cases) and on Saturday, a 266 percent rise with 1,001 reported incidents against 375 a week earlier.
Magiorkinis said the best way to slow down the onslaught of Delta was to take self-tests until vaccination is complete (2 weeks from the last dose); avoid activities where mask wearing and social distancing is not possible until vaccination is complete; get vaccinated; encourage family and friends to get vaccinated.
Fourth Covid-19 Wave on the Way?
Meanwhile, the country’s health experts are warning of an imminent fourth wave of the deadly virus, which they say will strike at the end of July or early August.
“Those who have not been vaccinated will spread the virus and cause the 4th wave,” said infectious diseases expert Nikolaos Sipsas, referring to a rise in vaccination appointment cancellations.
There is very little chance of inoculated individuals spreading the virus, said Sipsas, but “an unvaccinated person can infect eight people”.
He went on to add that the spread is mainly among the young “as is expected in vacation areas”.
“It’s a matter of time before the fourth wave hits Greece,” said Sipsas, adding that the Covid-19 committee of experts never recommended removing the mask rule.
“There has been a huge misunderstanding: the committee never suggested taking off masks,” he said.
Peloni echoed Sipsas noting that “the mask exception applies only to outdoor areas where there is no crowding”, adding that regular inspections would continue.
Greek PM Rules Out New Lockdown
Meanwhile, in an interview to Greek daily Kathimerini over the weekend, Mitsotakis ruled out a country-wide lockdown saying that the economy would not close down again because of the pandemic if it was just to protect an unvaccinated minority.
“When we imposed across-the-board measures, there were no vaccines,” said Mitsotakis. “We do have vaccines now.”
The Greek PM told Kathimerini that he cannot order mandatory vaccinations.
“Everyone assumes his responsibility. The country will not close again for the protection of a few unvaccinated,” he said.
However in response, Sipsas said it would be wiser for the government to avoid announcements that there will be no more lockdowns because “Covid-19 has its own agenda”.
Earlier today however, Deputy Interior Minister Stelios Petsas said that measures will be taken if necessary.
“July and August are two critical months and any measure that needs to be taken will be taken,” he said, leaving open the possibility of a “green pass requirement” for intra-regional travel.
Earlier on Monday, Mitsotakis called on local government to ensure that regular inspections of entertainment venues are carried out as of July 15, noting that penalties will be announced next week. He also ordered the establishment of mobile vaccination units at tourist destinations.
Lastly, in response to the rising Covid-19 cases in the country and the potential impact on the economy, Development & Investments Minister Adonis Georgiadis said plans to address the pandemic would have to be discussed anew.
Lastly, with regard to the “freedom pass” incentive (a pre-paid card worth 150 euros to cover costs for travel and entertainment) to 18-25-year-olds who get vaccinated, Peloni said that in the last week an additional 150,000 vaccination appointments had been booked, 100,000 of which in the 18-25 age bracket.