Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Sotirios Tsiodras, Greece's Top Expert in Infectious Diseases and a Devout Orthodox Christian

As of March 24th, 2020, the Coronavirus is responsible for 20 deaths and 743 cases in Greece. Despite this, the government is acting as though the numbers are higher. A protagonist in Greece’s battle against coronavirus is immunologist Sotiris Tsiodras, the government spokesperson for coronavirus-related measures.

Mr. Tsiodras is the father of seven children with a CV that runs over 27 pages. He is dubbed the “new beloved of Greeks” by the French newspaper Le Figaro, and he holds the burden of daily 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.” When warning the elderly to take care of themselves against the coronavirus on national television, he was seen pleading with tears in his eyes.

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 specialized in immunology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston as well as Harvard Medical School, where he was a researcher.

He has published more than 200 peer-reviewed papers with more than 8000 citations in the fields of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases and is currently doing clinical and epidemiological research in the field of infectious diseases.

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 Orthodox 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.

In 2001 he was a guest lecturer twice on the bioethics of the HIV virus at Holy Cross School of Theology in Boston.

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 percent Greek Orthodox in faith, and even more staggering in light of the fact that the great feast of Orthodoxy, Easter, is around the corner.

However, this past Sunday for the Veneration of the Holy Cross, Mr. Tsiodras was praised by some though criticized by many for attending church and serving as a chanter at the Church of the Resurrection of Christ in Spata, Attica. He was accused of not setting an example for the rest of the country, especially the elderly, even though the guidelines do state a priest and a chanter alone can serve inside. The officiator with him was Metropolitan Nicholas of Mesogaia, who is himself a brilliant scientist. To his critics he replied that he had special permission to enter the church and was the only person within 1000 square meters. (The video below is a news report done live while he chanted inside.)

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 percent 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.