How Greece Managed to Get It Right
It’s about swift action — and tapping into emotion
March 2020 was a roller-coaster month for Giota Lourida, MD, PhD, an infectious diseases senior consultant at Sotiria Chest Diseases Hospital of Athens, Greece. Lourida, who treated the first two first cases of coronavirus in Athens, says that when Sotiria became one of the three Athens hospitals dedicated to treating Covid-19 on March 20, the heavy inflows of people with severe breathing problems into the hospital brought with them fear and anxiety for the hospital staff: “The hospital reached full capacity in two weeks,” Lourida recalls. Soon, they were intubating one to two people per day, when pre-pandemic they would do the same in a week, and Lourida felt defeated. But in early April, the number of new arrivals showed signs of decline, and doctors began removing some patients from ventilators. “Our morale picked up. We had finally acquired experience and confidence,” Lourida says. By that point, it was obvious that Greece, Europe’s former black sheep, was fast on its way to becoming a global prototype for the successful management of the coronavirus crisis.
As of this writing, Greece has had 3,589 coronavirus cases,193 deaths, and 10 people on ventilators in ICUs. According to a report from Greece’s National Public Health Organization, between June 25 and June 30, the effective reproduction of number (R0) of Covid-19 in the country fell from 0.5 to 0.2 — when R0 is below 1.0, the virus stops spreading. It remains to be seen if these results will continue now that Greece has opened its gates to international tourists, but it is clear that the Southern European country has done well, far better than countries with more advanced health care systems, like the U.S. or the U.K. But how did a country the international press branded “Europe’s basket case,” on account of its dramatic and chronic fiscal and mismanagement ordeals, manage to have the same press now reeling with praise?
“The Greek government swiftly yielded the floor to experts and took courageous decisions to safeguard public health.”
In March, the people of Greece witnessed the hecatombs of coronavirus victims in nearby Italy, where one person died every two minutes…