NEWS

Political discord as Omicron spreads

With cases of variant growing, blame game ensues between parties over mortality rates study

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In the aftermath of the publication of a study this week that found regional disparities in the quality of Covid-19 care and that mortality rates in intensive care units are negatively affected by the high numbers of patients, one of its authors lamented that it was being weaponized for political purposes.

The political fallout has occurred as the number of cases of the Omicron variant in Greece grew to 17 on Thursday, with experts expecting a surge after the holidays.

“It causes great sorrow to a scientist but also to ordinary citizens that an older scientific analysis is used in a political confrontation,” said Sotiris Tsiodras, head of infectious diseases at the National Public Health Organization, amid an acrimonious blame game that has ensued between opposition parties and the government.

The study, co-authored by Theodoros Lytras, professor of public health at the European University of Cyprus, also noted the high death rate among patients intubated outside ICUs.

For its part, the government on Thursday insisted via its spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou that Prime Minister Kyriakios Mitsotakis did not know about the study beforehand, and called on main opposition SYRIZA not to belittle scientific research for partisan gain.

“The scientific study was not known to the prime minister, it had not been handed over to the prime minister or any of his associates before its official publication,” Oikonomou said, adding that the study “reiterates well-known findings of increased mortality when the health system is under pressure but also weaknesses in certain areas of the country.”

The prime minister himself, Oikonomou stressed, has publicly stated that the National Health System needs restructuring.

He went on to say that “the intubation of patients outside the ICU is done out of necessity in order to provide them with the best possible care until it is possible to transport them to the intensive care unit.”

The study took center stage during Thursday’s House budget debate, with SYRIZA deputy Panagiotis Kouroumplis accusing the government of “murdering thousands of people.”

However, this led to the former minister’s expulsion from the party’s parliamentary group by a reportedly outraged SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras. Kouroumplis’ comments were decried across the board by Parliament Speaker Kostas Tasoulas, fellow SYRIZA deputies and other lawmakers.