The lastest coronavirus tally in Greece is 715 cases in a 24-hour period, which is the lowest over the previous five days. Experts say the numbers did not fall, but that the total number of tests performed was reduced by over 4,000.
The latest epidemiological report of EODY is even more telling. According to the report the number of patients intubated, and fatalities are growing at an alarming rate.
October deaths are now a record, and the month is not over yet. So far 190 people have passed away on account of COVID-19, which is more people dead than during the first four months of the pandemic. The interactive chart below from Euronews shows clearly the seriousness of the situation.
This second wave of the coronavirus now threatens Greece and other nations with a cataclysmic health and economic situation if actions are not taken soon.
In Greece, the resurging of the second wave of COVID-19 is being blamed on restless young people who won’t wear masks, stay safe social distances from each other and engage in wild parties, even in public squares. While this situation does exist, the real reasons for the resurrent pandemic are underplayed by officials at every level.
Not only are young people rebelling against health measures, so are their parents. Here on Crete, you will find parks and gathering places full of kids with no masks and a devil may care attitude, but you’ll also find adults who now refuse to adhere to policies. The reasons for this COVID rebellion are complex, but in general the people are simply mistrustful of the government now. Tired and drained by this pandemic, weary from years of austerity, and distrustful of officials since forever, the Greeks simply stopped caring. But why?
Mixed messages on top of mixed messages. Failing strategies which have less to do with the public interest, than the interests of investors in the Greek tourism product. While Athens regulators lean on economic validity for Greece as the excuse, the real reason Greeks no longer trust their leadership is obvious. Outside interests just seem more important than the people of Greece. The country’s leadership seems to have taken its cues from American President Donald Trump, a man who simply denies anything that is uncomfortable for his constituents, the corporate elites who elected him.
The result of reopening the country to tourism are becoming apparent to the poeple of Greece. The psychology taking place is stunningly simple. The people trusted that it was safe to reopen, and now it’s clear it was just a bad idea. Officials are taking special precautions to make sure the public believes the tourists are not at fault, when the example Athens set is magnified by every tourist a Greek sees without a mask on. Germans traveling to Greece do not have to carry the infection, they carry something far deadlier. The cavalier attitude travelers bring from European capitals, it translates “who cares” on the streets of Heraklion. And then the officials opened the schools!
Mitsotakis’ people had to have known in advance that reopening Greek schools would probably be the end of public adherence to COVID-19 policies, at least for those doubtful of the viability of masks and curfews in the first place. Now we are reading about nursing homes with hundreds of patients and dozens of workers infected.
And in the midst of all the uncertainty, in the vaccuum created by Greek leadership’s failing policies, COVID-19 conspiracy theories rush in. Recent polling showed that nearly half (46%) of the Greeks polled believe that the pandemic is a conspiracy against them. Here in Heraklion, Crete, and in other towns on Greece’s biggest island, the results of the survey are reflected by the people we talk to. Stephan Lewandowsky, who is a cognitive psychologist at the University of Bristol who is an expert on misinformation, was quoted by The Guardian supporting my thesis here, that conspiracy theories thrive:
[Because of] “governments’ inability to have a clear message. They are another reason why we all need clear, consistent, evidence-based policymaking that can be trusted.”
The government just announced stricter rules on masks and curfews, and hardly anybody is paying attention. In the real world of living in Greece, people are just wondering “what’s the use”, if the leadership prioritizes tour companies and hotels above citizens. Just the other day, Heraklion MP Nikos Igoumenidis addressed the parliament about the government’s responsibility and the accountability of legislators to the people.
The Heraklion cardiologist’s statements were in part political in favor of his party, Syriza, Igoumenidis is someone Crete knows as an honorable man with the people’s voice in his ears. His condemnation over school openings and other issues was scathing, in particular the unprepared nature of the Mitsotakis administration where opening tourism was concerned.
Almost every day we see the ministers of Greece not only bragging about how well the country handled the initial COVID-19 surge, but about how the focus going forward will be reactive PR campaigning to, as Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis put it, “recover lost ground” economically. The tourism official also came out and admitted that Greece’s tourism season redux was nothing more than an experiment to gain “hands-on experience” in crisis management.
Finally, political narratives cannot continue as they have. Not in Greece, and not in the rest of the world. In Athens, officials seem to believe the public is either stupid or out of touch, but this POLITICO report July reveals that more than half of the new cases of COVID-19 back then came from outside Greece’s borders. To quote exactly:
“In the first two weeks of July, around 530 new infections have been traced, with more than half coming from incoming visitors. That’s higher than the total number of cases reported in June and almost double May’s confirmed infections.”
Clearly, despite what officials in Athens have been saying, the “experiment” was not going so well from the onset of the tourism restart. The story told of the real reasons behind policies, as Greek Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said back then “the economy and tourism must survive.” Hoteliers, businesses inside and outside Greece, they were the driving force to open Greece back up no matter what. But the false narrative continues even as Mitsotakis and his team get in bed with TUI and other corporate interests to try and salvage the bottom line.
In July Kikilias suggested the Mitsotakis team had a “Plan B” of local lockdowns if the second wave arrived. But obviously, even ten times the number of first wave cases has not spurred officials to act accordingly. In the meantime, as cases surge across Greece, German tour giant TUI is so confident in their association with Athens the group says more TUI run hotels are in the offing soon. This was a few days ago, in case you thought record COVID-19 cases would stop unsustainable travel.
Clearly, bankers and business conglomerates are joined by government leaders in assessing the value of Greek lives at zero compared to revenue figures. Look at the chart I included and click on Greece, this will reveal just how well the Mitsotakis plan is working so far. Let’s just pray that the second wave of cases does not turn into a tsunamic of loss of life and economic destruction like Greece has never seen.