Nearly a month after the government lifted restrictions on COVID-19 vaccinated individuals in high-risk red zones, it is reviewing possible public health restrictions in those zones, such as northern Greece, where the vaccination rate is particularly low and hospitals are reeling with ICUs filled to capacity.

In those regions, ICUs are already filled to capacity, while the peak of this wave is expected in November or December.

Northern Greece ICU’s in critical condition

Healthcare workers at Thessaloniki’s large AHEPA hospital say that they are treating intubated patients in simple beds. There are 137 patients being treated in ICUs in hospitals in Macedonia and Western Thrace.

In these regions there are 773 patients being treated outside of ICUs (74-80 percent unvaccinated), while 70 patients are being treated outside of ICUs with high-pressure oxygen masks (83-89 percent unvaccinated).

Athens University Medical School Professor of Virology Gkikas Magiorkinis, a spokesman for the National Committee on COVID-19, told SKAI television that it is possible that in areas where the vaccination rate is low and the National Health System is under severe pressure, social distancing measures may be imposed, particularly in restaurants, cafes and bars.

In the event of extreme epidemiological conditions, Magiorkinis did not rule out the possibility of closing night clubs in red zones.

If the measures must be imposed, he said they will be lifted only when a satisfactory rate of vaccination has been reached in the specific areas.

While stressing the overarching importance of vaccination, he also underlined that inspections at restaurants and night clubs must be stepped up.

On October 6, the Committee in announcing the lifting of restrictions of vaccinated citizens in red zones said the move would be reviewed in two weeks.

Now, that will happen on 3 November, two weeks later, and the experts have placed a number of options on the table.

Possible new restrictions in red zones

The possible new restrictions that experts and the government are mulling concern mainly restaurants, cafes, and bars.

Outdoors spaces of such establishments would be allowed only a canopy with each side open, or with a wind guard with a height of up to 1.3 metres to allow proper ventilation. Otherwise, they will be treated as indoors spaces.

Another possible measure is banning the playing of music in outdoors spaces.

As regards unvaccinated employees at restaurants, bars, cafes, and recreational venues, more intensive weekly testing has been proposed. They would have to take three rapid tests weekly, which cost ten euros each, at their own expense.

There will be no restrictions on fully vaccinated individuals.