Greece and Europe ushered in summer this week with a surge in Covid-19 cases and a warning by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) that Omicron subvariants may lead to an increase in hospitalizations and deaths.
At the start of what appears to be a promising tourism season, Greece is seeing new coronavirus cases skyrocket with the National Public Health Organization (EODY) reporting 10,528 new Covid cases and nine deaths in the last 24 hours. The deadly virus is hitting younger individuals with a median age of infections at 37 years, EODY said.
Commenting on the news earlier Wednesday, Greek Health Minister Thanos Plevris said the rise was expected.
In an interview to public television ERT Plevris said it was “logical to have an increase in cases not only because of measures being lifted but also because the coronavirus is moving in waves.” He reiterated that at the moment there was no need for measures but urged vigilance.
Covid-19 taking toll in Europe
At the same time, elsewhere in Europe, a new wave of Covid-19 is taking its toll. France reported over 95,000 infections on Tuesday, up by 45 percent in a week, Germany saw cases exceed 122,000 on the same day, Italy recorded double the cases to 62,700, while Portugal has been hit by a new wave with almost 30,000 cases a day.
Infectious diseases experts have repeatedly expressed concern about the fast-spreading Omicron sub-variants two of which – BA.4 and BA.5 – appear to be disrupting summer holiday plans as experts insist on new restrictions.
“The variants do not appear to carry a higher risk of severe disease than other forms of Omicron but as they are somewhat more infectious than the latter, it could lead to an increase in hospitalizations and deaths,” the ECDC said, adding however that governments should “remain vigilant” and maintain Covid-19 testing and surveillance.
In the meantime, according to the ECDC’s weekly surveillance summary, “at the end of week 23, 2022 (week ending 12 June), transmission started to increase in several countries and overall EU/EEA”. It went on to add that in several countries “the case rates among people aged 65 years and above are increasing again, together with some severity indicators”.
“It remains important to continue monitoring the severity and disease burden, especially in older age groups,” it said, adding that additional booster shots will be needed for groups most at risk.
Masks requirement re-examined
In an attempt to reduce Covid infections rates, all the more governments in Europe are reconsidering measures. Although visitors to Greece are no longer required to wear masks anywhere inside or outdoors, including at restaurants, bars, cafes and shops, face masks are mandatory on public transport, in taxis and on board ferries and cruise ships.
Last week Italy also extended its mask mandate for public transport through to September 30 while Germany is expected to announce new measures later this month.