A number of Greece’s most popular islands will be confronted with a local lockdown where there has been over the last two weeks a continual steep rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases Some experts have projected a possible 10,000 cases a day by mid-August.
That is over three times the number of cases in the last 24 hours (2,691) announced today by the National Public Health Organisation.
The government and public health authorities are focusing on five islands that are top tourist destinations – Mykonos, Ios, Paros, Santorini, and the areas of Iraklio and Rethymno on the island of Crete.
In one week there was a threefold increase in the number cases in Mykonos, fivefold in Ios, and a sevenfold hike in Paros.
Moreover, in one week there was a threefold increase in the number of cases in Iraklio, while the cases in Rethymno doubled in the same period.
All of the above regions have now been characterised as code orange with heightened monitoring and testing due to the high viral load. The municipality of Salamina and certain mainland regions have also been placed in the same category.
Tourism minister: Local lockdowns if necessary
Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis left open the possibility of local lockdowns, but only if absolutely necessary if the situation spins out of control.
“If a situation is tending to get out of control, obviously we must consent to a local lockdown. This is not pleasant. We do not want local lockdowns,” Theocharis told ERT state television.
“The responsibility lies with local societies, yet I cannot avoid it [a lockdown] if that is what the situation mandates.”
Theocharis underlined that the tourist season is closely linked to the situation created by the pandemic in the country and he urged citizens to be vaccinated so that Greece may weather as well as possible and stem the spread of the highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant.
“All tourist markets take this into account. Our responsibility for our lives first of all and for our tourism is to abide by public health measures. We must all be vaccinated for this wave of the Delta variant to pass without creating problems for our country,” he said.
Asked if Greece this year will reach tourism targets, he indicated that now the targets are of secondary importance.
“Health comes first, along with ensuring our country’s image as a safe destination. Until now we are winning the wager. We are not complacent. We are monitoring the situation at our borders. We do not have many cases from abroad. Most arise from domestic travel and from the ‘corona-parties’ in various areas,” Theocharis said.
Delta variant 50 percent of new COVID-19 cases, bleak projections
Authorities and experts are alarmed over the rapid spread of the Delta variant, which according to the latest data accounts for about 50 percent of newly confirmed cases in Greece.
Some experts have offered nightmare scenarios of 10.000 cases daily in mid-August and that of the unvaccinated between 400,000 and 500,000 will fall ill.
Matina Pagoni, president of the Association of Hospital Doctors of Athens and Piraeus (ΕΙΝΑΠ) issued a public plea to those planning to travel to be vaccinated before their vacation.
“In mid-August we shall reach 10,000 cases a day,” she said.
Nearly 99 percent of new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals are either entirely unvaccinated or have received only their first jab and they are mostly younger people according to Professor of Pulmonary Medicine Nikos Tzanakis. He projected that one-third of the unvaccinated will fall ill.