Thessaloniki is Greece’s second-largest city and capital of the region of Macedonia. It is home to approximately one million people.
The broader area of Thessaloniki was Greece’s epicenter during the second wave of the Coronavirus.
In November and December 2020, the city’s hospitals were almost overwhelmed. The number of patients who needed treatment due to the spike in positive cases of COVID-19 was immense.
South African COVID-19 Variant Causes Concern
Nikos Hardalias and Panagiotis Arkoumaneas rushed to Thessaloniki on Sunday. Hardalias is Greece’s Deputy Civil Protection Minister; Arkoumaneas is the President of the National Public Health Organisation of Greece.
Their sudden visit to Greece’s large port-city came after the detection of the so-called South African strain of the novel coronavirus in the area. The two officials visited the Metropolitan Church of Neapolis in Thessaloniki.
According to Greece’s iefimerida website, the new variant has been found in positive cases reported on priests. The clergymen live and work in the broader area of Neapolis in Thessaloniki.
The two top officials’ visit to Thessaloniki was considered imperative. It came following a teleconference held earlier on Sunday with the participation of professor of infectious diseases Sotiris Tsiodras.
Other epidemiologists also participated in the teleconference. They all tried to evaluate the situation in the region.
Up until now, Greece had only reported the variant originally found in the United Kingdom.
Greece has recorded a total of 66 positive cases of this variant. The UK variant is more infectious and possibly more lethal.
What is the Variant found in Thessaloniki?
The South African COVID-19 variant is officially known as the 501Y.V2 variant. It is a variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
It was first detected in the Nelson Mandela Bay of South Africa. It was reported by the country’s health department on December 18, 2020.
The entire world is very concerned about this new variant. The reason is that it could possibly evade the currently-produced COVID vaccines.
On January 4, British newspaper The Telegraph said that Oxford immunologist Sir John Bell believed there was “a big question mark” over the new South African variant’s potential resistance to COVID-19 vaccines.
This raised fears that the vaccines that are being distributed across the world might not work as effectively on that variant strain.
In Europe, the new variant has already been reported in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, and Portugal.
Greece now becomes the latest European state to report the new variant that originated from South Africa.