Written by Staff Writer
Thailand, Portugal, Greece… the UK has tourism hotspots for just about every region in Europe.
Still, it’s Greece’s summer that’s drawing the lion’s share of the headlines — and the ire of health officials.
The U.K. Health Protection Agency (HPA) reported on Monday that of the 18 people that it said had a higher-than-usual case of pneumococcal disease at the Pontion Hospital in Patras, in northern Greece, 10 are UK residents.
The HPA advised those who are at higher risk for infection with pneumococcal bacteria — such as those with weakened immune systems — to avoid going to hospitals, nursing homes and other health facilities or other public places in Greece, including Patras.
However, doctors at a hospital in the Greek town disputed the HPA figures, saying the 23 cases reported were all contracted abroad.
Isas Medical Professionals Syndicate said in a statement on its website that “Greece has been included in the news of pneumonia in UK individuals travelling to Greece from January to March of this year, which is totally unnecessary, and has caused a great deal of concern among the Greek health service.”
“What is more, when the number of pneumonia cases is compared to the total number of cases in general, the numbers are very low,” the statement said.
The statement went on to say that the U.K. Embassy in Athens had given assurances that the situation in Greece was under control.
Dozens hospitalized at Thessaloniki
The HPA didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment, and similar queries to Greek health officials weren’t immediately answered.
But Thessaloniki hospital officials have said the figures are “without scientific foundation.”
According to Dr. Makaela Varzanides, who works in the hospital’s infectious diseases department, at least 43 people have been hospitalized with severe pneumonia-like symptoms. At least 38 people have been admitted to intensive care units and two have died of pneumonia-like symptoms, she told Thessaloniki Kastriotia (LAT).
Morag Graisses, a spokeswoman for the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), said this week that the number of Britons going to Greece in May “plunged significantly.”
According to ABTA, tourism operators have noticed a steep decline in reservations in Greece since April.
Meanwhile, August is the peak month for British tourists coming to Greece. The Tourism ministry predicts that the drop in bookings may lead to fewer vacations by Britons to Greece this year.