Greek city to use Christmas money for more ICU beds

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — A city in northern Greece hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic said Thursday it will scrap plans to set up Christmas decorations and a nativity scene this year to donate the money to the local hospital’s intensive care ward.

“We have decided to use the funds to pay for two additional ICU spaces, three medical monitors, and 1,000 protective suits for medical staff,” the mayor of Serres, Alekos Chrysafis, told The Associated Press.

City officials said the donation to the state-run Serres General Hospital was expected to total 110,000 euros ($130,000.) They added that a tree would be put up in the center of the city of nearly 60,000 people.

Cities in northern Greece have been the hardest hit by the pandemic. The daily number of cases in the country’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, remains higher than those reported in greater Athens — an area with a population more than three times larger.

Greece on Thursday extended a nationwide lockdown by another week, through Dec. 14, though shops selling Christmas decorations will be allowed to open on Dec. 7. Theofilos Kallinikidis, a pathologist in charge of coronavirus wards at Serres General Hospital, said he welcomed the donation, which came at a critical time for the hospital.

“A few days ago we had a terrible surge in cases,” he told the AP. “Around 100 patients have died of coronavirus in the hospital, just one of them during the first wave of the pandemic.”

The hospital started with just six beds in its ICU, but is now near capacity with 16 out of 17 beds occupied, he added.

Greece has suffered more than 2,700 COVID-19 deaths, with most occurring in the month of November. The country has confirmed a total of some 111,000 cases since the start of the pandemic.

___ Follow Kantouris at https://twitter.com/CostasKantouris

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