What top Greek researchers, researchers, infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists reveal – and why the 8 months of inactivity – in a letter.
The document, which is revealed today dated March 16, 2020, five days after the first lockdown on 11/3/2020, may finally give the explanation why we got here, and why the second lockdown appears as a one-way street.
The country from last Saturday and for three weeks initially (although everything shows that “come-go” will be the new motto of life), entered a second in 8 months universal lockdown (ban on circulation in Greek), due to the exponential situation of the spread of the new coronavirus in the community, with immediate consequence, as presented, the increase of admission to hospitals and ICUs of the most serious cases, the increase of deaths and the burden on hospitals. All this, if it were not for the new lockdown, as announced by the Prime Minister, but also by the head of the Special Committee for Infectious Diseases, Sotiri Tsiodra, would lead, if left unchecked, to the dramatic picture of who enters and who does not enter the ventilator and there, even more cynically, who is saved and who is not.
But what made an impression was an aversion on Thursday afternoon from the Maximos Palace to the speech of the infectious disease specialist Sotiris Tsiodras: “From the past experience with other viruses and with the original of the flu virus, we knew that the second wave in such viruses is always more exponential and aggressive … ». But, if they knew 8 months ago, what did they do to prevent us from getting here and a second lockdown? How far did they go in what they suggested then or how do they explain in practice the non-implementation of their scientific suggestions at best or their “disappearance” at worst? Was it a political decision in which they preferred to remain silent? But, if that is the case, then the Prime Minister himself is exposed, who in a dramatic tone from Maximou stated that “political decisions are my responsibility, but are based on scientific data which can not be disputed, as well as the scientific data that I receive every day by scientists…»..
The revealing document
A document revealed today dated March 16, 2020, five days after the first lockdown on 11/3/2020, may finally give the explanation why we got here, and why the second lockdown appears approximately as a one-way street.
It is surprising that throughout this period (since mid-September), when we have seen cases doubling at regular intervals, there has also been a population-based study that shows us the real situation, all asymptomatic and non-asymptomatic cases in the country. This should be of particular concern to scientists and the state. Even worse that, as everything shows, if we continue to proceed with a moderate level of information in this area, what will happen after the end of this lockdown will remain stubbornly unanswered until the next lockdown … If they believe that the quarantine alone and until vaccines come in safe use will save us, then the reality of a nightmare scenario may prove to be still ahead of us, considering that they are talking about a virus outbreak, at a time when it is not yet winter and many even now swim in the sea.
The crucial letter that was “hidden”
On March 16, 2020, a particularly important, highly sensitive and, above all, fully reasoned letter arrives at the office of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health and four other critical state institutions, signed by 9 leading scientists of their kind, many of whom they then played or still play key roles, either in the Special Committee of Infectious Diseases of the Ministry of Health, which proposes all measures for SARS-CoV-2 in Greece, or as heads of committees and programs funded to deal with the new coronavirus in Greece.
The letter rightly and concisely from its preface refers to an “aggressive” model for testing for the virus, “… not only for the part of the diagnosis but also for the part of the population”, which “will give the the ability to both identify potential nuclei and to better model the dynamics of the virus in general and to take measures with higher resolution and efficiency based on a more accurate capture of the actual spread”. That is, a massive, protocol-based, epidemiological “scan” with scanning – screening in the community, all over the country, to show the speed, hotspots, way and places of spread of the virus, for targeted strategic type of interventions, with the aim of the society to function smoothly and to shield those groups of the population that are deemed to be protected depending on the human geography and the speed of spread of the new coronavirus.
In fact, as they emphasized at the time, the intensity of this great epidemiological check should coincide with the end of the lockdown of March 11, just so that not a single day is lost with the “relaxation of the measures”, so as not to find ourselves again in the same situation.
As it is noted, “… it is important to start the tests immediately and to be ready when the measures are relaxed to carry out “aggressive” laboratory testing in order to continue systematically monitoring the development of the epidemic, as we do not know how the situation will develop in the coming months … In this context, we propose the mobilization of all available diagnostic infrastructures in Greece (academic and research centers, hospital laboratories with documented experience in the analytical methodologies related to virus detection) so that the basic needs can be covered (perhaps with brute force and more traditional and time-consuming laboratory approaches) and, secondly, to make it possible to perform thousands of tests per day to better deal with the epidemic and take more effective measures at the right time. All this can and must be done without interrupting or affecting the existing system of diagnosis and medical intervention…”.
In fact, then, explicitly and unequivocally, the signatories, some of whom today are among the main rapporteurs of the new lockdown as the “only solution” to the speed, as they say, of spreading the virus, emphasized emphatically:
“There are three immediate goals:
- Contribute to meeting immediate needs for screening under the existing plan, given that the number of patients is increasing exponentially
- Intensive monitoring of test-positive individuals in order to quickly isolate themselves and those in their immediate environment.
- “Screening in the population with a specific plan, to understand the dynamics and to predict generalized or focused outbreaks”.
A revealing assumption
In fact, in this letter, dated March 16, they reveal the impressive fact, that already “… in this direction, a consultation has been held with the heads of most centers that co-sign this text and with members of the Committee of the Ministry of Health (prof. Tsiodras, Prof. Lagiou, Prof. Majorkinis). A preliminary discussion has been held with EODY (Mr. Sapounas) regarding the intensive monitoring of people who test positive.
– We propose the establishment of a technical committee for the immediate preparation of the above plan under the coordination of the Committee of the Ministry of Health.
– We also propose the suspension of all non-urgent molecular biology experiments for research purposes in all the aforementioned carriers, in order to record reagents and store them for use in patients for COVID-19 in case of lack of reagents…”.
That is, they reveal that members of the Commission and EODY have been informed about the whole action, who today declare “surprised by the speed of the spread of the virus in the last week” and resort as a one-way street to the scientific suggestion for lockdown, when for 8 months, as things turns out, they did nothing of what they knew, then fully accepting the reasoning of the letter and some of them co-signing it.
What should have happened
What is the fate of the letter that was sent eight months ago?
This letter, which essentially signaled 8 months before what had to be done to control the way, the time and the hotspots of spread of the virus in the general population, in order to make strategic interventions to protect sections of the population even geographically, that would have such a need, but the rest of the population to function normally, without reaching a second lockdown, with unknown consequences on society, health – and mental – economy and life across the country, may have arrived on the same day in the office of the prime minister, however, from the very next day it was “buried” or even forgotten by its inspirers and of course such an “aggressive” epidemiological record in three axes, as we have seen, never happened.
On the contrary, several of the signatories continued to be used in other areas as members of the Commission that took over the management of the crisis that brought us to the second lockdown, others as heads of funded projects that did not go ahead and others, frustrated by the non-response, continued to give battle from other bases of their own.
The statement of Apostolos Vantarakis, professor of Hygiene at the Department of Medicine of the University of Patras, president of the Panhellenic Association of Bioscientists, at 7th of November on Radio 98.4, is typical, even for the “emblematic action” (epidemiological recording in the population) that Sotiris Tsiodras said that it started a few days ago from university laboratories in Athens and Thessaloniki: “Since August 6 university laboratories in Patras, but also all university laboratories throughout Greece, we are waiting for a reply email for our participation in this action but we have not received a response yet (November 3)”, although all diagnostic infrastructures were available in Greece, academic and research centers and hospital laboratories with documented experience in analytical methodologies related to virus detection… It seems that a more closed circuit is preferred with limited capabilities and geographically, at a time when all of us can not have access to data, except for the few and selected ones that the Commission and EODY provide … I am afraid that some people made the pandemic a job..”.
Signatures of Top Scientists
It is worth noting that the letter we are revealing today of March 16, 2020 is signed by, among others, persons who play or have played a decisive role in the scientific committees as experts in managing the whole situation. It seems that most of them forgot what they signed in March 2020 or were given the opportunity to deal with other funded programs and not with the major issue of full population census through targeted epidemiological actions and tests.
The letter was then signed by: Prof. Emmanouil Dermitzakis (Medical School of the University of Geneva, President of the National Council for Research, Technology and Innovation), Prof. Pagona Lagiou (Director of the Laboratory of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, EC School of Medicine, C School of Medicine. Majorkinis (Laboratory of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, EKPA), Prof. Vassilis Gorgoulis (Department of Histology and Pathology, EKPA), Ph.D. Vassilis Grigoriou (Chairman of the Board of the National Research Foundation), Prof. Dimitris Thanos (Chairman of the Scientific Council of the Institute for Biomedical Research of the Academy of Athens – IIVEAA), Prof. George Kollias Tavernarakis (Chairman of the Board of the Research Technology Foundation – FORTH), and Prof. Konstantinos Stamatopoulos (Director of the Institute of Applied Life Sciences-INAB, CERTH).
For the only one we know, that he did not take a position in the Commission, nor did he receive a substantial response to the letter he co-signed, but he continued to act with Foundation for Research & Technology – Hellas (FORTH) and in fact pioneeringly seeking solutions and answers for the new coronavirus, is the president of FORTH.
For the rest, let them answer themselves or be judged for the roles they took on, leaving to “its’ luck” a letter that the implementation of its content would probably have led us to avoid the second lockdown, which is already imposed.
What was lost in 8 months
To understand what was lost in 8 months, let’s collate instead of an epilogue, the following well-known news for comparison:
“Almost the entire population of Slovakia (65%) underwent antigen testing for COVID-19 as part of a two-day program to examine all 5.5 million inhabitants of the country, in the hope that this will help stop the pandemic without a strict lockdown which may need to be imposed. This is the first time such a program has been implemented in a country of this size. The Slovak government, after preparing in July with the purchase of adequate rapid tests, tested almost the entire population, except children under 10 years of age. “More than 40,000 doctors, nurses and support teams, consisting of soldiers, police, civil servants and volunteers, staffed the approximately 5,000 clinics where the tests were performed.”
They had 8 months to prepare since the issue erupted in March. This is what the states that plan correctly do …