Greece has announced on the 9th of Feb that retail businesses will close in Athens for collection and schools will close.
Is there any justification for these measures?
The number of tests being carried out has increased by 25% over the just the last week and half, the number of PCR tests being carried out has almost doubled from around 10,000 a day to 20,000.
Logically, what would we expect to happen the cases numbers with this increased testing?
Lets look at the figures in more detail.
Back of the 20th of January the case positivity rate was its lowest in the last 4 months, this was also the day when the greatest number of Rapid Tests were carried out. Since the ramp up in PCR testing we have seen the case positivity rate increase by 50%.
At 30,000 tests a day of which 11,000 where PCR tests, we saw the positivity rate at 1.9%.
At 40,000 tests a day with 18,000 of those tests being PCR tests, we saw the positivity rate rise to 2.8%.
The percentage of tests that are PCR, have risen by 61%, The positivity rate has increased by 67%.
It’s safe to assume that part of the increase in case positivity is down to the increased use of PCR tests.
What about the actual case numbers versus the number of tests?
The week of the 30th of January saw around 30,000 tests a day. The week of the 3rd of February saw around 40,000 tests a day, a 30% increase.
Did we see a 30% increase in the number of cases?
On the 30th of January we saw 66 cases per million. On the 3rd of February we saw 80 cases per million.
A 21% increase in cases for a 30% increase in the number of tests. If the prevalence of the virus stayed the same we would expect a 30% increase in cases. If the prevalence of the virus decreases we would expect the increase in cases to be less than the increase in the number of tests and this is what we have.
Couple this the increased positivity rate from PCR tests one has to assume the situation is improving, not deteriorating.
What about deaths?
The death numbers are stable which reinforces the conclusion that increased testing and increased use of PCR tests is solely responsible for the increased cases and does not indicate more people are actually getting sick.
At worst the situation is stable.
We can bring these three metrics together (testing, cases, deaths) with our favourite statistic in assessing the severity of COVID19, the Lethality Index.
When we take into consideration the increased testing, the cases reported and reported deaths we can see the situation is stable despite the relaxation of restrictions and indeed it is a more persuasive argument to say the tightening of restrictions is leading to a slight uptick in the index. 7th, 8th and 9th of February are seeing a slight uptick in the Lethality Index and this around 2 weeks after the restrictions were re-tightened.
We see this time and time again, relaxation in restrictions leading to improvement in the lethality index, tightening of restrictions leading to an increase in the lethality index with around a ten to fourteen day delay.
This on its own should force serious questions to be asked about the wiseness of asking healthy people to stay indoors for extended periods of time.
Unfortunately it gets worse.
If the Greek government actually believes its own numbers ie the virus is becoming more prevalent then they would have to concede that the virus is becoming less dangerous because cases are increasing and deaths are stable.
There really is no justification for the continuation of the lockdown measures in Greece, at least using the metrics that the government appears to be monitoring.
At worst, using our numbers, the virus is stable in Greece despite the limited and slight relaxation of the restrictions ie being able to collect from shops.
At best, using the numbers supplied by the Greek government the situation is improving, the virus is becoming less deadly. Despite the lockdown measures becoming less extreme.
In short the reasons the Greek government is giving for ordering a lockdown in Athens makes no sense.
Time and time again we see lethality increase when tighter measures enforced. If the Greek government wants to control COVID it must look for other methods.