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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

April 22, 2020
Marios Matsakis

Well-known forensic pathologist Marios Matsakis is calling on the president to immediately lift coronavirus restrictions, describing these as extreme and a ‘hysterical’ response to a virus that has claimed far fewer lives than seasonal influenza.

“It is now obvious that the coronavirus pandemic is ending. And this, not due to the severe and excessive measures taken against the population, but rather to the advent of summer and the nature of the virus itself,” Matsakis wrote in an open letter addressed to President Nicos Anastasiades and copied to a number of organisations, including the Cyprus Medical Association, the Chamber of Commerce and the Employers and Industrialists Federation.
Echoing a growing number of experts around the world, Matsakis said that whereas some protective steps certainly ought to be taken, these should be measured and proportionate so that the cure is not worse than the disease.
Stressing that policy decisions must be driven by sober assessment of the data, he went on to cite World Health Organisation estimates that up to 650,000 people die from the common flu globally each year.
This compared to the approximately 150,000 deaths to date (April 20) attributed to Covid-19.
“They told us that coronavirus is far more serious than seasonal flu. Until today in Cyprus, 12 people have died due to coronavirus. During the same time period last year, 18 people had died from Influenza A alone.
“Let it be noted that… all the deceased from coronavirus were very elderly people and/or were suffering from serious, and potentially lethal, underlying diseases. I am not saying that no effort should be made to prevent such deaths; but these incidents have always been around in medicine.”
Challenging the consensus narrative of the need to ‘flatten the curve’ in order not to overwhelm the healthcare system, Matsakis said that as of April 20 there were just eight coronavirus patients on ventilators islandwide.
“Keep in mind that every day, under normal circumstances, we have twice as many patients suffering from other diseases… on ventilators across all public and private medical facilities.”
The doctor also questioned claims that Covid-19 is far more contagious than seasonal flu. Were that true, and given the infections recorded among healthcare workers, people working in supermarkets and bakeries, the police, at the airport and the land registry, today up to 90 per cent of the Cypriot population ought to have been infected.
“Clearly that is not the case. In fact the number of coronavirus infections is far lower than infections from seasonal influenza. And let it not be deemed that the relatively small number of confirmed coronavirus infections is the result of the severe restrictions.
“Because, given the number of confirmed carriers, the high number of contacts they had… the relatively long period of time until a final diagnosis is made, the spread across various organisations (hospitals, supermarkets etc) in the community, then the cases with or without restrictions ought to have been far higher than they actually are. Certainly the restrictive measures may have aided to a certain degree, but to a very minor degree in my view.”
Weighing the pros and cons of the lockdown, the pathologist noted that the tunnel-vision approach to Covid-19 is depriving many patients of treatment for a host of other ailments, as a number of surgeries have been postponed, while sick people are not going to hospital because of the fear of catching coronavirus.
“People are being deprived of fundamental human rights, their work, practicing their religion, their customs, social and familial contact. And a vast economic disaster has occurred which God only knows when we will manage to fix, burdening taxpayers with unbearable sacrifices going forward.”
Matsakis blamed the mass media for hyping up the coronavirus scare, causing the public to fixate on television screen crawlers providing constant death count updates.
In the United States, for example, there have been around 40,000 Covid-19 deaths. But what media outlets don’t mention, is that last year some 80,000 people there died from seasonal flu – although a large proportion of the US population had got vaccinated.
The pathologist went on to advise the president to scrap the health ministry’s Epidemiological Surveillance Unit, replacing it with two or three senior technocrats directly assisting the minister of health.
While acknowledging the work of the epidemiological team, many of whom he considered to be prominent scientists, Matsakis said “they too may well have been carried away by the unprecedented global hysteria surrounding the coronavirus.”
Matsakis also recommended that a single general hospital be designated for treating Covid-19 patients, allowing all other hospitals to resume their normal functions.
He signed off with this plea: “Mr President, do not be swayed by the fear and panic that appears to have gripped the majority of the world community. Please take into consideration the opinion of the ‘heretical minority’ which some might say that I represent.”
Citing his credentials to speak on the matter, Matsakis said he has a BSc in microbiology and a PhD in biochemistry. He gained his medical degree from the University of Cambridge in 1984, and specialised in forensic medicine at the University of Glasgow, where he was awarded an MPhil in 1992.