By Panagiotis Arkoumaneas*
Greece is welcoming July with the best epidemiological statistics of the last months.
There is a substantial decline in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, of intubated patients, of hospital admissions, and of deaths.
This decline did not occur by chance. It is the product of our collective, strenuous, and coordinated effort and care.
It is also the result of targeted and exceptionally successful actions in the area of public health, such as the sweeping use of COVID-19 self-tests and of course the “Eleftheria” [freedom] campaign that ensured the daily vaccination of over 100,000 of our fellow citizens.
This good epidemiological profile gave us not only psychological courage but also the ability at the practical level to adjust many restrictive measures and to ply ahead with the gradual freeing up of most activities.
Hence, we are optimistic but we remain vigilant and continue to take public health precautions.
Over the last weeks, there has been international concern about the COVID-19 Delta variant which studies indicate is sixty percent more transmissible than Alpha variant (also known as British).
Alpha is the predominant variant in Greece today and it is largely responsible for the harshness of the third wave here and throughout Europe.
The Delta variant, however, is more dangerous. The world-renowned American virologist Anthony Fauci has characterised it as the most important threat to wiping out COVID-19. What makes it more dangerous is its heightened penetration – as a result of its increased transmissibility and its evasion of the immune response to older variants.
Scientific studies clearly demonstrate that unvaccinated people face a significant danger from the Delta variant, while the fully vaccinated are safe.
COVID-19 vaccination will constitute our defence against the new variant and will offer a permanent solution to the problem of the pandemic.
Vaccines are safe. Over three billion doses have been administered all around the world – eight million in Greece – with infinitesimal side-effects.
Unvaccinated citizens and areas with low vaccine coverage will confront problems with COVID-19, and especially with the Delta variant.
At EODY (National Public Health Organisation), we continue with stubborn and systematic epidemiological monitoring nationwide, with an increased capacity compared to last summer.
We are continuing to administer tens of thousands of tests (Greece is among the countries that conducts the most tests per million of population) both in random sampling and at points of entry into the country.
There, together with the Civil Protection Bureau we are adding an additional security level with random sampling or across-the-board testing, as in the case of travelers from countries in which the Delta variant has become predominant.
We are also focusing particularly on tracking and tracing confirmed cases of the Delta variant.
Here, I should like to extol the important role played by the National Genome Monitoring Network, which is coordinated by EODY, as regards the effort to isolate variants in a timely and valid manner so that we may share important scientific information on mutations and new variants with the global community.
Two weeks ago we decided on the measures that we shall take if an area is characterised as “red” on the epidemiological map – which we have posted on gov.gr so that citizens may know the basic epidemiological data for all regions.
Still, the most important and urgent objective is for all of us to be vaccinated.
If we want to avert local interventions with restrictive measures we have no other choice as human beings, as citizens, as employees, and as members of a family and of a society that is being hit hard on a number of fronts.
We should all be vaccinated immediately and if possible we should try to persuade anyone in our circle of family and friends, who harbour anxiety or are wavering, to be vaccinated.
I shall never tire from repeating these things even if I become tiresome. The battle will be decided on the vaccination front.
The vaccine is our most essential and powerful ally. Let us not show contempt for it.
Let us not allow the country to be divided into “vaccinated” and “unvaccinated”. Let us avoid that division.
Let us all choose the same side. Let us shield our bodies and our lives.
Let us protect our loved ones.
Let us all be vaccinated!
*Panagiotis Arkoumaneas is the president of the National Public Health Organisation (EODY).