Epidemiologist Tsiodras Calls for More Facemask Use, Says Virus Spread “Impossible to Control”



Dr. Sotiris Tsiodras, the Epidemiologist in charge of Greece’s fight against the coronavirus. File photo

As the number of new confirmed coronavirus infections rose well above 1,000 for the first time since the pandemic began in Greece on Tuesday, infectious diseases expert Sotiris Tsiodras called on his fellow citizens to avoid mass gatherings and wear face coverings at all times.

The National Organization for Public Health (EODY) announced a record 1,259 new cases yesterday, prompting the nation’s most prominent epidemiologist, Dr. Tsiodras, to appear at the nation’s nightly televised news conference, as he had so often this past Spring, to admonish citizens for not following protocols and urge them to take all appropriate precautions.

“The spread of the coronavirus is impossible to control,” he announced to the nation I his first public briefing in months. “Face masks are the only choice we have. We take it off only to eat (when we are dining with someone else).”

“I want to say, with a clear conscience, that we do not lose hope, we continue to fight as citizens with measures that make our lives easier, that allow social life without lockdowns, which have huge social consequences,” he stated. “We want to avoid a lockdown.”

Tsiodras made it clear that people’s “personal choice will play an important role” in the further spread of the virus in Greece.

At the same televised briefing on Tuesday evening, Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias announced that the regions of Ioannina and Serres will enter into lockdown after a rise in infections in those areas. He then issued an unusually stern warning for the regions of Thessaloniki and Larisa, noting that the situation in those two areas is now “critical.”

Northern Greece leads nation in virus cases; Situation Called “Extremely Critical”

Northern Greece currently leads in the spread of coronavirus infections, Deputy Minister for Civil Protection & Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias said during the briefing.

Hardalias also announced that the regions of Serres in Macedonia and Ioannina in northwest Greece would be upgraded to the “Red Alert” level of increased threat as of 6:00 AM on Thursday. The region of Rodopi in northeast Greece and the entire island of Naxos will also be upgraded, raised to the “Orange” alert level, calling for increased monitoring.

The Deputy Minister issued a call to the public for redoubled efforts to contain the spread of the disease in those areas, adding that the situation is “extremely critical.”

Tsiodras: Dispersal of Virus “Impossible to control”

The dispersal of the coronavirus “is impossible to control, we need a mature understanding,” Professor Tsiodras warned at the twice-weekly televised briefing alongside   Hardalias, epidemiologist and fellow Health Ministry coronavirus committee member Gkikas Magiorkinis, and Deputy Health Minister Vassilis Kontozamanis.

The infectious diseases specialist called the next two weeks particularly critical for the containment of the pandemic. In response to press questions, Tsiodras noted that when there is a spike in infections among younger people, it has been proven now that it only takes 2 to 3 weeks for those infections to be spread to older people with whom they have had contact.

He stated that the current number of infections among those over 55 years of age in Greece has now doubled.

Regarding additional measures, Tsiodras ruled out a lockdown both in Europe and in Greece, calling it “a last resort,” urging the public to pitch in and assume greater personal responsibility in observing health measures. He stated that stricter measures would be discussed by the committee on Thursday, especially those regarding social distancing in restaurants and engaging in sports.

The winter will be difficult, through January, Tsiodras warned, expressing concern for the health system in Northern Macedonia, particularly the number of available ICU beds, but added that this reality had not been unforeseen.

Geographic distributions on Tuesday

The National Public Health Organization released the breakdown of the new coronavirus cases on Tuesday that broke the four-digit barrier, reaching 1,259, up steeply from 715 on Monday.

Attica, the most densely populated area in Greece, had 295 cases. Thessaloniki’s cases spiked to 291. Northern Greece, responsible for Tuesday’s steep rise in new cases, had the following numbers:

Rodopi (73), Serres (55), Halkidiki (22), Evros, Pella (20 each), Drama (18), Xanthi (15), Imathia (13), Kavala (12), Kozani (12), and Kilkis (11).

In Western Greece, Ioannina (21) and Corfu (12) led in new case numbers, while in Central Greece Larissa (47) and Trikala (19), the numbers showed a sharp rise as well.

Islands were also showing a rise in cases, with Rhodes (9) and Naxos (6), and a spike on Chios (61), with most of these (51) related to migrant reception and identification centers.