OPINION

Knowing what we’re up against

knowing-what-we-re-up-against

“Those informing us are either withholding information or not reporting data from which we can draw useful conclusions.” The claim refers to the pandemic. In fact, it refers to the pandemic in Greece and not, for example, in Turkey, where the country’s biggest medical association has repeatedly claimed that the government has been making the numbers look better than they are.

The claim was not made by some opposition politician either, to prompt an immediate government response dismissing it as fake news, opposition fever or an attempt to undermine the government’s effort.

It was made by the well-respected center-right former minister and lawmaker Stefanos Manos. Moreover, he backed his “unpatriotic” claims about data manipulation with hard numbers: Based on the number of deaths per million of the population, Greece was, from December 6-5, in a worse position than Germany, France, the United Kingdom and even the United States.

We know things aren’t good. But we don’t know how bad they are. Greek doctors have been vocal for some time, speaking out even though their concerns fall on deaf government ears more accustomed to praise. Even though they are rarely welcome on the major broadcasting networks. Even though they are at risk of being punished by the administrations of the hospitals where they work. Why? Because their claims contradict the current government anthem, the official narrative, which clearly borders on the fictional.

The appealing descriptions of the state of the pandemic and its magnitude are based on what may be the only government decision that has remained consistent since the start of this tragedy: keeping the number of tests low, really low. Contrary to the recommendations of the World Health Organization and infectious disease experts, or the needs of the system. There is nothing unnecessary about the cost of carrying out many tests, in workplaces, nursing homes, prisons and poorer parts of the country. It is absolutely necessary, in fact. That is, of course, if the government agrees that the only way to beat this “invisible enemy” is to try to make it as visible as possible, in all its magnitude.

Yes, basketball star Giannis Antetokounmpo says in a new television ad for raising awareness about the vaccination campaign, “it’s time to play defense.” But you can’t play effective defense blindly, without knowing your rival and having all your players in the right position.