Hospitals have experienced a sharp increase in hospitalizations and requests for antiviral treatment for Covid-19 the past few weeks, indicating a potential new wave this summer.

According to official data from the Ministry of Health, patients admitted to hospitals have tripled compared to last April, with more than 70 patients requiring hospital care in just 24 hours, while calls to clinics for advice or appointments have increased by 20% this past fortnight.

The circulation of the virus had remained low since the last wave between December 2023 and January 2024, but seems to be reemerging again due to waning immunity – either from vaccination or through natural infection.

Stelios Loukidis, Professor of Pulmonology at the Athens School of Medicine and president of the Hellenic Thoracic Society, notes that “Until May, daily requests for antiviral pills were no more than 45-50. In the last fortnight, however, this number has surged to 200 per day.”

New Variants

This new surge in cases is an indication that new Covid variants are gaining ground.

Specifically, Dimitrios Paraskevis, Professor of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, explains that the KP or JN (also known as FLiRT) variants, which are subsets of JN.1, are responsible for this summer spike. “These new subvariants incorporate three mutations in positions 456, 346, and 572 of the virus’s spike protein, likely giving the virus an advantage in infecting those with pre-existing immunity. This is confirmed by their rising prevalence over JN.1 and the increasing number of cases.”

He warns that “Unlike the flu, which shows a consistent seasonal pattern peaking in the fall/winter, SARS-CoV-2 can cause outbreaks even in the summer. This is particularly important for individuals from vulnerable groups to take appropriate precautions or seek medical advice if diagnosed with COVID-19.”

As for the symptoms of these new variants, patients of all ages suffer from a high fever and sore throat.