ATHENS, March 17 (Reuters) - Greece on Wednesday urged doctors to volunteer their services to the state health system as it struggles to rein in fast-spreading COVID-19 infections.
"We are at the most critical juncture of the pandemic," Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias told a weekly briefing, calling for general practitioners and pneumonologists to volunteer to work in state hospitals.
He said that if some 200 doctors did not respond to his call in the next 48 hours he would recommend to the prime minister to allow health authorities to force them work for the state health system.
Two private hospitals were enlisted last week to treat COVID-19 patients in Athens, where half of the country's 11 million population lives, and Kikilias said that another would be repurposed to take COVID-19 patients.
With more than 7,000 coronavirus-related deaths in total, Greece has fared better than many other European countries.
Authorities have tightened and loosened movement restrictions since November, hired health staff and set up new intensive care units to fight the pandemic.
But infections were still high and the health system, badly hurt by a decade-long financial crisis, was struggling to treat 4,648 COVID-19 patients across the country - 1,000 more than to last week - Kikilias said.
Some 3,465 new daily cases were reported on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections in the country during the pandemic to 227,247. (Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas and Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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