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Australian-born health expert behind Greece’s virus success

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

An Australian-born infectious diseases expert has been a key figure in helping Greece avoid a catastrophic COVID 19 death toll.

An Australian-born infectious diseases expert has been a key figure in helping Greece avoid a catastrophic COVID 19 death toll.

Greece, a country of 11 million people, has so far registered 2626 cases of COVID-19 and 144 deaths, far fewer than its European neighbours such as Italy and Spain.

Sotiris Tsiodras, who was born in Sydney, has been widely credited with alerting the Greek government about the need for early action and helping to stem the spread of the virus.

The director of the country's Infectious Diseases Committee has persuaded the anarchic leaning Greeks to follow strict health guidelines.

Growing up in Sydney, Dr Tsiodras later completed his medical training in Greece and at Harvard University.

"Tsiodras has shown composed but firm leadership, a real sense of authority," Professor Vrasidas Karalis, of Sydney University, told

Greece - with its large number of elderly citizens, a health system ravaged by deep funding cuts and poorly kept nursing homes - was expected to register many deaths.

But the country moved quickly to avert a crisis - announcing a lockdown on March 23 before its first COVID 19 case.

"The government's decision to act quickly and go into lockdown before many other countries did was crucial," Prof Karalis said.

He says ordinary citizens also deserve praise for their part in keeping the virus at bay.

"Greeks also have a strong resilience. They are a hardworking people - many hold two or three jobs. While they previously may not have trusted the government during the Global Financial Crisis, they do now and are following the rules."

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This week the Greek government announced an easing of the pandemic lockdown.

Greece, which only emerged in 2018 from a debt crisis that wiped out a quarter of its economic output, is desperate to let businesses reopen and fears the coronavirus will ravage this year's tourism trade – which employs 25 per cent of the workforce.

Hair salons, flower shops and bookstores have reopened.

Small retail stores including florists and booksellers, opticians and spa services are among other businesses allowed to reopen. Schools, restaurants and bars are expected to reopen later this month. Hotels will start to open from June 1.

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Source: 9News

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