NEWS

MIT professor upbeat on virus outlook

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As Greece enters the fourth phase of easing restrictions that were imposed in March to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, an eminent Greek professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dimitris Bertsimas, has developed an epidemiological model that suggests Greece is unlikely to see a significant increase in Covid-19 cases over the summer. 

In an interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini, Bertsimas, who is associate dean of business analytics at MIT in Boston, said that his so-called Delphi model, which he developed with a group of his students, uses data from some 10,000 patients worldwide and artificial intelligence to predict the evolution of the virus.

In Greece’s case, there is unlikely to be a spike in the curve over summer, he said. “Things are going well,” he said, adding that Greek authorities reacted correctly to the pandemic but he added that constant vigilance is required. 

“In Greece, 10 new patients a day is not a large number. But just think what would happen if one patient comes into contact with another 10 and then each one of them with another 10?”

Bertsimas cited the example of Singapore, which also did well in containing the virus initially but is now dealing with a second wave of the pandemic after having opened up its economy following a public lockdown. 

The reopening of the economy should be done gradually, he said, as we are still far from a vaccine and the risk of a second wave looms. In the flu pandemic of 1918, 70 percent of cases occurred in the second wave, between September and January, he noted. 

Greek authorities on Monday launched the fourth and most critical phase of easing the restrictions imposed in March. 

Cafes, restaurants and bars are to reopen after a 10-week closure, under strict regulations. Ferry connections to the Greek islands also resume today, similarly with strict regulations. Passengers as well as crew will be obliged to wear masks. 

The coming weeks will be more critical still as Greece gradually opens up its tourism sector to foreign visitors. Seasonal hotels are to open from June 15, while flights to all airports will resume from July 1 but only from countries with low rates of Covid-19.

Passengers flying into Greece will not be subjected to diagnostic tests or quarantine, though spot Covid-19 tests will be carried out at airports.