Greek authorities are trying to prevent a third wave of the coronavirus as authorities confirmed the first detection of the South African variant of the virus on Sunday.
An extraordinary meeting was convened by the Minister of Health Vassilis Kikilias on Monday to coordinate efforts to improve readiness both in terms of epidemiological surveillance and the health system.
The region of Attica, where Athens is located, is of particular worry for the health authorities.
Almost on a daily basis since January 25, there are between 50 to 80 new hospital admissions of patients suffering from the disease.
On that day 455 Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in Attica’s hospitals. This Monday, the number has spiked to 547.
Health authorities are also alarmed by the spread of the mutated strains of the coronavirus, which are more rapidly transmitted.
On Sunday, the National Agency for Public Health (EODY), announced it recorded a total of 173 samples positive for the mutant B.1.1.7 (British mutation) and one mutant B.1.351 (South African mutation).
The president of the Panhellenic Medical Association, Athanasios Exadaktylos, left open the possibility of imposing a tougher lockdown, noting that since January 25 there has been a slow upward trend of the epidemiological burden.
Vaccine “less effective” on South African mutation
Infectious Diseases professor Nikos Sypsas said the vaccine is less effective on the South African mutation.
“There are 3 mutations at the moment which infect more. It’s the British, the South African, and the Brazilian mutations,” he said.
“There are very strong indications that the vaccines are less effective for the South African mutation.
“There is a possibility that the virus overcomes immunity and this will mean that we have to back to square one, back in the era of Wuhan,” Sypsas said referring to the Chinese province which became the epicenter of the coronavirus in late 2019, early 2020.
“If the South African strain prevails in Greece, then it’s like having a new virus that the vaccines do not cover,” he said.
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.