Greece relaxed the COVID19 restrictions back on the 18th of January, you can read the full details here, so what happened since then and what is the COVID19 situation in Greece today?
Looking at our favourite metric, the COVID19 Lethality Index we can see the numbers have shown solid improvement since the restrictions were relaxed. There was a slight plateau in the numbers leading up to the 18th but the numbers have started to improve once again after the restrictions were relaxed.
Generally speaking the COVID19 Lethality Index started climbing around the 14th of November and returned to the 14th of November level around the 26th of December. So around a 6 week period where the virus came and went which is typical of what we saw with COVID19 back in March/April in other countries.
In effect the virus has passed, for this season at least.
Given that the relaxing of restrictions has led to a further improvement in the Lethality Index it is hard to find a reason for the government choosing to re-tighten the COVID restrictions.
We have two examples in the last three months, where we have seen a relaxation of restrictions leading to an acceleration in the improvements of the COVID19 Lethality Index.
We see no reason for a tightening, in fact we see good reason for measures to be relaxed further.
But what is the government saying?
To justify the increasing of restrictions on the 5th of February the government is claiming that cases are increasing and indeed they are. We have seen an almost doubling in the number of cases reported since the 18th of January however there is an explanation for this and it has nothing to do with the virus.
We can see in the last two weeks that the Greek government has increased the amount of tests carried out by around 30%.
We can also see that the composition of the tests have changed, namely the number of PCR tests being carried out increasing by around 100% in the last two weeks (leading to a reduction of around 7000 Rapid Tests per day). As has been shown by testing done in the UK, the Rapid Test is more accurate than the PCR test when the PCR test is run to a cycle threshold of 40. The Rapid Test has an equivalent PCR threshold of around 28 which is the recommended threshold for most PCR tests. The results of the Rapid Tests are not adjustable like the PCR tests. Rapid Tests give one result, PCR tests will give a different result depending on how many Cycle are done on the sample.
In short the increase in the number of PCR tests in Greece will lead to an increase in the number of false positive results.
The increased false positives coupled with the increased testing will lead to more cases being reported. An increase of 30% in testing will lead to around a 30% increase in the number of cases and we estimate the increased use of PCR tests combined with total testing increases, will lead to a total increase of around 40% in the number of cases reported.
So out of the 100% increase in reported cases we still have a real 50% increase in cases this may be cause for alarm however at the time of writing the number of deaths is on a downward trend. This suggests that even though the virus may be increasing in prevalence the mortality of the virus is decreasing.
Looking at the pattern of COVID19 infections through other countries in Europe we can see there is one definite hump, the virus rises and then falls over a period between 6-8 weeks, this is similar to influenza.
We have not as yet seen an example where a country goes through this single hump only for it to be immediately followed by another hump. At the time of writing this would be unprecedented.
Having said that we do see something similar to a double hump in the UK however it must be presumed that this second hump is actually the annual influenza season as influenza cases in the UK are zero in 2021. The influenza season in the UK usually tails of by the end of February, I see no reason to believe this year will be any different, cases of COVID19 should reduce massively by the end of February in the UK.
Greece has seen the seasonal hump in COVID19, in effect the virus tailed off around the end of December. There is no doubt that the sustained numbers of COVID19 diagnosis in January has been down to the annual influenza season, as Greece, like Britain, has seen next to zero cases of influenza in 2021. I have this from sources at hospitals in Thessaloniki. The increase in cases of COVID at this time in Greece is also likely being caused by the annual influenza season.
Given how stable the Lethality Index is, given how the pattern of COVID19 is one hump per season and given that the increased cases we have seen over the past couple of weeks has been in part driven by the annual influenza season, I see absolutely no reason for measures to be tightened at this point.