Tourism did not contribute to a rise in covid-19 infections in Greece, says minister

The triple-digit rise in coronavirus infections since the start of August is high but the numbers are slowing down, Health and Epidemiology Professor Gkikas Magiorkinis said.

His comments were made during the televised bi-weekly coronavirus briefings held every Tuesday and Friday at 6pm. The reintroduced briefings inform citizens and visitors of the new measures and inform them of the latest developments.

Margiokinis stepped in for Sotiris Tsiodras, who chairs the committee of epidemiologists and other specialists set up for the novel coronavirus at the Health Ministry.

Greece recorded 168 new cases of COVID-19 in the latest 24-hour reporting period.

This raises the total number of cases to 8,987.

1,910 are considered to be related to travel from abroad and 4,074 are related to an already known case.

Professor Magiorkinis said there are signs of a slowdown however there should be no relaxation of public awareness and vigilance.

The resurgence of the infections may have been milder than expected, he warned, but the disease was extensively spread in younger ages, which could pass it on to the elderly.

Deputy Civil Protection Minister for Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias also noted that data showed opening the country to tourism did not contribute to a rise in coronavirus infections. “The country’s opening to tourism was carried out carefully, and wherever we saw a heavy epidemiological load we shut down the borders again, as in the northern ones,” Hardalias said.

Thirty-one individuals are in the ICU, and their median age is 66 years. 38.7% have an underlying condition and/or are aged 70 and above. Another 143 have been discharged from ICUs since the start of the pandemic in Greece.

Hardalias also said that from July 1 to August 23, 360,206 people were tested out of a total of 2,932,614 entering Greece at all land, sea and air points.

Confirmed cases since July 1 total 723, he said.

The tests are not randomized, the minister said, explaining that an algorithm classifies passengers with the highest likelihood of being carriers of the coronavirus without being aware of it, and criteria include age, country of residence (as well as region within it), and recent travel.

“The result is that all checks are absolutely targeted,” Hardalias said, “allowing for the identification of more outbreaks and for better estimates leading to necessary political decisions.”

Hardalias also ruled out a generalised lockdown, and said that the government had the tools to manage a rise in infections. Greece is at a good epidemiological state but vigilance is necessary, he stressed, and he likened the management of the pandemic to a marathon rather than a sprint.

The country’s pandemic death toll stands at 243. The median age of all was 77 years and 95% of the deceased had an underlying condition and/or are aged 70 and above.