Australia’s response to the crisis has been mild compared to Greece’s stringent lockdown. Despite the fact that there have been just 17 deaths and 695 cases, the government is acting as though the numbers are high. A protagonist in Greece’s battle against coronavirus is Sydney-born immunologist Sotiris Tsiodras, the government spokesperson for coronavirus-related measures.
Mr Tsiodras is the father of seven children and a CV that runs over 27 pages. He is dubbed the “new beloved of Greeks” by Le Figaro, and he holds the burden of informing Greeks of what is in store in the ‘war’ against Covid-19.
Relatively unknown to the general public until now, Mr Tsiodras is now the man of the moment. Greek sociologist Andreas Drymiotis writes: “Greeks particularly appreciate his calm, his knowledge on the matter, and his deep respect for all victims and the fact that he has an unbreakable dedication to nursing staff.”
Born in Sydney on 13 October, 1965, his family later moved to Greece where he finished his studies at the senior high school of Kypseli. Following studies in Athens, he later specialised in immunology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre as well as Harvard Medical School, where he was a researcher.
His medical skill was seen at the inspections of the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in 2002 as well as the Athens Games in 2004. In Greece, he advised authorities on H5N1, West Nile Fever and more.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was alerted to the danger Greece faced as soon as the first cases were noted in Italy, when Mr Tsiodras asked him to take “drastic action”. The article in Le Figaro also refers to the success of Mr Tsiodras in getting the powerful Greek church to collaborate in the fight against coronavirus. A devout Christian himself, he wakes up on Sundays to go to his parish and is an adept Byzantine chanter – a passion he has had for many years.
Though a man with deep faith, he advised for the suspension of every service. It was a difficult decision for a country that claims to be 98 per cent Greek Orthodox in faith, and even more staggering bearing in time that the great feast of Orthodoxy is around the corner.
There have already been 2,000 doctors and nurses drafted and there are fears that the disaster will exceed the country’s capacity to manage following a decade-long financial crisis that shrunk the country’s GDP by 25 per cent as well as a local infrastructure that is already tested by a refugee crisis.
Something that Mr Tsiodras is respected for, however, is his ability to contain the virus.