Greece is grappling with significant challenges in its battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, as the week of October 9th-15th, 2023, brought concerning news. The country witnessed a sharp increase in hospitalizations, intubations, and deaths due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These developments have raised questions about the effectiveness of existing measures and the potential impact of new variants, such as the BA.2.86, on public health.
During the week in question, Greece reported 1,802 new hospitalizations related to COVID-19, representing a 26% increase compared to the average rate over the previous four weeks. This surge highlights the urgent need for stronger measures to control the spread of the virus. However, it is worth noting that the actual number of admissions may be higher than officially reported due to hospitals not disclosing data or conducting enough tests.
In addition to the rise in hospitalizations, the number of new intubations also increased. A total of 33 individuals required intubation due to COVID-19, surpassing the average rate of the previous four weeks. Intubation is a critical indicator of the severity of COVID-19 cases, and this spike is worrisome. Currently, there are 53 patients in the ICU with intubations.
The number of COVID-19-related deaths during the week of October 9-15 is perhaps the most distressing aspect of the latest data. Greece reported 51 deaths, emphasizing the urgency of addressing the ongoing public health crisis. The median age of those who succumbed to the virus was 86, highlighting the vulnerability of the elderly population.
The data also reveal the increasing prevalence of the BA.2.86 subvariant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. With 49 confirmed cases, the rise of this subvariant is concerning. Its characteristics and potential impact on the effectiveness of vaccines and treatments require close attention. This prevalence raises questions about the challenges in controlling the virus and the need for continuous monitoring and adaptation of public health strategies.
Wastewater surveillance has proven to be a valuable tool in tracking the circulation of the virus. In Greece, the data from the week of October 9-15 indicated an increase in the virus’s presence in 6 out of 9 areas studied. This underscores the importance of monitoring and understanding how the virus spreads in communities, allowing health authorities to respond effectively and allocate resources where they are most needed.
Alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, the presence of other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza, adds complexity to the public health landscape. In Greece, the number of influenza cases remains relatively low, but the occurrence of flu-related deaths serves as a reminder of the ongoing threat. This highlights the importance of flu vaccination as a preventive measure.
The situation in Greece during the week of October 9-15, 2023, presents a concerning picture of the ongoing impact of COVID-19. The rise in hospitalizations, intubations, and deaths underscores the urgency of effective containment measures and vaccination campaigns. The emergence of the BA.2.86 subvariant adds another layer of complexity, necessitating adaptability and vigilance in the pandemic response. Wastewater surveillance provides valuable insights into the spread of the virus, guiding targeted responses. The presence of influenza serves as a reminder to remain vigilant and practice preventive measures. As Greece and the world navigate the complexities of the pandemic, collective efforts, cooperation, and a commitment to public health remain crucial.