NewsLocalCovid-19: Cyprus, Kronos and its scientists (opinion)

Covid-19: Cyprus, Kronos and its scientists (opinion)

Cyprus is again showing a Kronos-like tendency to consume its own children, Phileleftheros editor Yiorgos Kallinikou writes in a column today.

We reproduce the column below:

“Leondios Kostrikis is a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus, a founding member of the Cyprus Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts and head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology. He studied in the United States. He was one of 40 Fulbright Scholars selected among 250,000 candidates from 140 countries. He worked in the United States for 20 years before returning to Cyprus. This was followed by post-doctoral research at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center of Rockefeller University on molecular virology for HIV.

He worked at Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center as a researcher and at Rockefeller University as assistant professor. He returned to Cyprus 2003 as a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Cyprus. He is an editorial board member for nine reputable internationals scientific journals and a scientific writer for another four. He has also served on many international review panels.

His lab at the University of Cyprus cooperates with the Health Ministry on HIV-1 infection and transmission in Cyprus and Europe and resistance of the virus to antiretroviral drugs. He is co-founder of the European Society of Antiviral Research, initiated scientific research on HIV-1 in Cyprus and member of  WHO-UNAIDS Network for HIV Isolation and Characterisation.

He has received awards from the Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Foundation, the Aaron Diamond Foundation and the Patti Cadby Birch Trust in the US.  In 2005 he received an honorary distinction from his work. He has directed over twenty competitive research grants from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the European Commission, international charitable foundations and the Cyprus Research Promotion Foundation (CRPF).

All this not in order to advertise the scientist, Leondios Kostrikis. We have no doubt that he doesn’t need any advertising. His CV is so heavy, rich and noteworthy, that any ad would pale in comparison.

Rather, it because of some infuriating issues we have noted. Yet again time, there appears to be the tendency in this country of Kronos eating his children; disputing reputable scientist who has stepped into the foreground. We focus on unimportant disadvantages rather than the many advantages. We criticize any remark, even if our knowledge compared to his on the issue are equivalent to that of mouse standing up to an elephant.

First: a section of public opinion and comments after each press conference where the latest figures are announced. Many criticize him for lacking communications skills. For reading out numbers. For his repeated insistence on calling on all us to stay home. But Kostrikis is not a communications expert or an orator. He is a scientist with specialized, and remarkable knowledge. He joined the government’s scientific team voluntarily, with no remuneration. To offer his services to the country during a very difficult time. He was asked to read out the results when the first scientists who undertook this role were obliged to go into quarantine. At the press conference he does not speak for himself but the government. He is therefore obliged to stick to dry facts. That is why, when in other cases when he speaks to the media and expresses himself, he impresses with his analysis.

Secondly, we have seen various people in the health sector also attempting with some bitter comments to dispute his warnings. It borders on the ridiculous. Whoever happens to be in the health sector (not doctors but those in minor roles) think they know everything. And that they can even guide the strategy to deal with the pandemic.

Thirdly, some politicians who, because of the fleeting glory offered by their position, think they know everything. What is worse, it makes them think that their position allows them to dispute or even to insult prominent scientists. Who have made their name abroad (how tragic that they are recognised only outside our borders) and in comparison to whom our politicians’ knowledge is negligible.

So society must learn who Leondios Kostrikis is. What special burden he carries. That it is his recommendations (and of some of colleagues) that led the government to take the right measures. Under different conditions the situation today could have been tragic. Just think back to first tragic televised address of President Anastasiades and the drastic shift in direction two days later. The Presidential Palace would do best to close its ears to some petty advisers.”




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