The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Greece has risen to 31, infectious diseases expert and health ministry spokesperson Prof. Sotiris Tsiodras announced on Thursday.
Tsiodras said the 21 new cases that tested positive were detected among a group of 24 tourists that had visited Israel with the ninth diagnosed case, of which three were in serious condition and suffering from pneumonia and six were in relatively good condition.
Warning against a "panic epidemic", Tsiodras nevertheless stressed the need to strictly adhere to hygiene rules, noting that there was a high risk of the virus spreading through travellers. He said that the disease was almost certainly underdiagnosed, and that it will continue to spread, adding that laboratory tests will be confined to serious cases as the number of incidents rises.
"It is not more deadly than other [viruses] but it is spread more easily, even by people with mild symptoms. We expect a significant increase in cases in our country also. According to mathematical models and taking the weather into account, we estimate that 5 pct of the population could get sick this year and up to 10-15 pct of the population next winter," he added.
On the ninth case and the other members of the group visiting Israel, he said that authorities had traced more than 400 of their contacts.
"Israel was one of the countries with few cases. The group returned on February 27 and this shows the virus's potential to cross borders," adding that the hospitals that treated the cases had observe the protocol "but the virus can pass right under our noses".
He once again repeated that anyone with symptoms such as a fever or a cough should stay home to protect the elderly and those with chronic ailments.
Meanwhile, a suspected case of coronavirus in a university student is being examined in Rethymno, Crete. The University of Rethymno rectorate has decided to suspend the operation of the university as a precaution for the next three days.
The student is in good condition and is being treated in an isolation unit at the Rethymno hospital, while the results of a blood sample to test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus are expected in the afternoon.