ATHENS – “We can’t stay shut in forever,” said Prof. Sotiris Tsiodras, the health ministry’s spokesperson for Covid-19, during the daily press briefing on the virus on Saturday. He noted that there must be a gradual and controlled easing of the restrictive measures, and that this required both vigilance and strict observance of hygiene rules.
If vigilance was not relaxed, he noted, infection levels in Greece will remain low and “we will be able to go back to our lives.”
Tsiodras said that the strategy in Greece was based on the science and not on social pressure, explaining that to continue the lockdown until the discovery of a vaccine, which could take up to 18 months and whose effectiveness would in any case be uncertain, was impossible. It would, in any case, be preferable to start opening things now rather than in the autumn, when other viral epidemics, such as influenza, also started to reappear, he added.
Tsiodras noted that immunity in the population will be built up gradually, with some people giving estimates as high as 50-70 pct immunity, but this must not happen too quickly. He also noted that there were two schools of thought regarding in immunity: “The World Health Organisation says that we cannot be certain whether the individuals who get sick develop antibodies that protect them, whereas other scientists, including myself, believe that we develop antibodies that last for about a year.”
Giving the latest figures for the spread of novel coronavirus in Greece, Tsiodras reported 16 new cases found by tracing the contacts of existing Covid-19 patients and no deaths on Saturday. The total number of confirmed cases in Greece to date was thus 2,506, of which 56 pct were men, he said. Of the known cases, 578 were linked to travellers and 1,174 to contacts of known cases. The number of patients currently intubated was 47, Tsiodras said, with an average age of 67, of which 13 were women and the rest were men. The total number of deaths from Covid-19 remained at 130 on Saturday, with an average age of 74, while 63 patients had recovered and left intensive care.
Tsiodras also replied to questions on the latest figures showing that Covid-19 patients might be experiencing shortage of oxygen without experiencing shortness of breath. He noted that everybody “needs to be alert to the symptoms” and said that WHO has added new possible symptoms to the list, such as headaches, muscle aches and the loss of the sense of smell and taste.
“We knew that there was a percentage of patients that did not have symptoms and another that was in the phase before symptoms develop. Both these groups could transmit the virus to their environment. We now know that those who don’t have symptoms but will develop them in due course are more numerous. It is believed that 50 pct of transmission comes from these people,” Tsiodras said. It was therefore very important for even the slightest symptom to be medically evaluated, he added.
On the courtrooms that are to reopen on Monday, Tsiodras said the safety measures decided included the use of a mask by the judges on the bench, lawyers and others in the courtroom, as well as the presence of antiseptics in all courtroom areas and observance of rules – such as a minimum 1.5-metre distance between individuals and having only one person per 10 metres square.