I am not sure how to feel. I just read that Celestyal Cruises just announced its 2021 program would include wonderful cruises from Piraeus on May 29. I read the news just after asking a friend at Pagni Hospital in Heraklion, about the procedure for COVID vaccinations, and learning that even her at-risk father can’t get the jab for another two months. Apparently, I am not the only one with a heart condition who’s standing on the edge of a pandemic razor blade.
Then I noticed Celestyal Cruises will sail here too, so maybe corporate travel behemoths know more than the rest of us. Or, maybe not, but the experts at ITB Berlin say summer holiday bookings for Greece are on the rise. Travel Agents Union President Norbert Fiebig said so in an online version of the famous European travel show. According to him, the Greek islands are at the top of holiday destinations for Germans. Maybe I should ask him how retired spouses of EU residents can get a temporary social security number (AMKA), to get scheduled for the vaccine shot?
A week ago GTP and other media outlets reported that Greece residents in my situation would get the temporary AMKA number after the Ministry of Development and Investment got a draft law passed in parliament. Strangely, my two requests for the number got me no information or even an email notification. But a friend, my wife’s accountant, assures me news is coming soon. Our son Paul will be relieved since he’s washed the skin off his little hands by using alcohol so much. The kids are all worried about the parents and grandparents, though they hide it well. Kiki, our friend the amazing pharmacist, is in the dark like everyone else and advises me to take the second normal flu shot, just in case.
The GTP story gives instructions for people caught between the cracks, and they say “Just hit submit”, and I guess everything will be right as rain. But in case you are of a mind, you can find the phone number of the head of the health ministry of any Greek region, if you are a search guru like me. He or she will also probably tell you, like my sweet friend at the hospital, to be “armed with patience” in an untenable situation that’s gone on a year now.
But then I recall speaking with the Education Ministry when little Paul was scared to go back to school. Hmm, they told me there was no danger too, but this was before the second wave hit! Every precaution was being taken, school officials said. For some reason, I am thinking now of a phone conversation with my pal Grigoris, the amazing chef whose restaurant has been closed a year now. He assured me over the phone, his sore throat was from working in the olive groves to make ends meet, and not from COVID. One of the ministries also told him he couldn’t get financial help, since he took up olive harvesting in the winter rain. Ministries? One has to wonder.
Funny thing is, TUI, the cruise lines, the tourism minister of Greece, the airlines, the world tourism organizations, and the Hellenic hotels associations don’t seem patient! Hell, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and its members on Thursday praised the Greek government for its efforts and steps taken to restart international travel from May 14. I guess WTTC President & CEO Gloria Guevara also knows something the rest of us don’t.
I’ll tell my little boy if he asks me again if I am okay when I cough. I’ll also pass the news along for my Greek friend’s 70-year-old father, his grandson will also be relieved cruise passengers are headed this way in a couple of months. Maybe everything is on schedule, and we’ll all be right as rain soon.