Greek authorities are on high alert following the alarming outbreak of the coronavirus in Italy. As of Monday morning, at least five individuals in northern Italy have died from the disease and more than 200 active coronavirus cases have been recorded.
Minister of Health Vassilis Kikilias urged Greek citizens on Monday to remain calm, while emphasizing that the country is well-defended against the spread of the disease.
“The virus resembles the flu virus, and it will be treated accordingly. The country is protected,” Kikilias declared after meeting with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Kikilias pointed out, however, that infectious disease experts warn that the possibility of an outbreak in Greece has increased, due to its geographical proximity to Italy.
Greek students who are currently on educational trips to the neighboring country are being sent home as emergency measures are introduced at airports and the ports of Patras and Igoumenitsa, where ferries from Italy carrying thousands of passengers every day are docked.
“Students who are already in the process of returning to Greece will return to their normal activities,” Education and Religion Minister Niki Kerameus said on Monday, ruling out the possibility of the students being kept in quarantine.
According to an announcement by the Ministry of Health, and based on the new epidemiological data of the new coronavirus, the National Public Health Organization (EHEA) “continues targeted actions to inform and raise awareness in regards to third country visitors to the country’s entry portals, by issuing news and posters at airports and ports.”
Greek authorities, alarmed by the outbreak of the coronavirus in neighboring Italy, are in daily contact with the World Health Organization and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) so that they may “assess the situation internationally.”
European Union Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides has said that possible travel restrictions in the Schengen (border-free) area should be proportionate and coordinated among EU states, as the bloc faces the coronavirus outbreak in Italy.
“For the moment, WHO has not advised imposing restrictions on either travel or trade,” Kyriakides told reporters on Monday, adding that a mission from the World Health Organization will travel to Italy on Tuesday to assess the situation.
The spread of Covid-19 in Italy has been extremely rapid, with five deaths and more than 200 confirmed cases in the brief span of only 72 hours.
The cases are concentrated in the northern part of the country, and Italian authorities are taking precautionary measures to prevent any further spreading of the disease to any other region.
Stunned by Europe’s biggest surge of the #coronavirus, Italy appears to be operating in near panic mode with some groceries wiped out.
The government imposed a lockdown on an area of 50,000 people near Milan. More @business: https://t.co/oYpbT0IoKk #Covid_19 #COVID19italia pic.twitter.com/uLboKpWhjr
— QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) February 24, 2020
Twelve cities in the north of the country have already been put into quarantine, most of them in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto. Schools and universities will be closing for at least one week, while authorities have also ordered the temporary shutdown of museums and cinemas as well.
grocery stores / supermarkets in italy for corona virus. i’m scared pic.twitter.com/QAjLajNbBJ
— ali (@tvttoedheart) February 23, 2020
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Saturday that “extraordinary measures” would come into force to attempt to stem the rising number of coronavirus cases. He added that the quarantine restrictions could last for weeks.
The last two days of the Venice Carnival festivities were completely canceled, which is a major blow to the country’s tourism sector. Additionally, several matches of teams in the Italian Campionato (Football League), which had been scheduled for Sunday, were also canceled.