A 38-year-old woman was reported as the first case of coronavirus in Thessaloniki, Greek media reported on Wednesday (26 February), as the virus continued spreading through Europe.
It is the first recorded coronavirus incident in the country following the outbreak in neighbouring Italy.
She is being monitored by a team of specialised scientists while her recent contacts with other people are being tracked. Those who came in contact with her lately will be voluntarily isolated.
Greek media reported that the woman had been in Milano and travelled back to Greece by car.
The ministry of health called for calm, as the disease generally remains mild. However, it recommended that people coming from the affected areas of northern Italy should monitor their health and, in case of symptoms, stay home and notify their doctor.
More than ten different contingency plans for the spread of coronavirus in the country are ready for implementation by the General Secretariat for Civil Protection. Each of them is based on separate scenarios regarding the incidence area and rate of proliferation.
The “nightmare” scenario, where the pandemic spreads in one of the two biggest cities – Athens and Thessaloniki – envisages the activation of the police and the armed forces, measures to block traffic on large building blocks as well as shutting down the metro.
EU calls for coordination
The EU’s Health Security Committee forecast on 24 February a “moderate to high” risk of more new coronavirus clusters of the type happening in northern Italy.
Similarly, the World Health Organisation has said countries around the globe should prepare for a “potential pandemic”.
Speaking at a joint news conference in Rome with the Italian health minister Roberto Speranza, EU health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides call on EU member states to coordinate to face this critical situation.
“All member states need to inform us of their preparedness plans […] Diverging approaches across the EU should be avoided,” she said, adding that closing borders would be a “disproportionate and inefficient” measure.
The Cypriot Commissioner said the EU is still in the containment phase but given how quickly the situation can change, the public health system “must be prepared to deal with more cases of infections”.
WHO: careful with the word ‘pandemic’
Earlier on Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom warned against the careless use of the word “pandemic”.
“The increase in cases outside China has prompted some media and politicians to push for a pandemic to be declared. We should not be too eager to declare a pandemic without a careful and clear-minded analysis of the facts,” he told a press conference in Geneva.
He added that WHO has already activated the highest level of alarm but using the word pandemic carelessly has “no tangible benefit”.
“But it does have a significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralysing systems,” Adhanom emphasised.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]