News that Romania and Greece are keen to set up a travel arrangement using their own vaccine certificates to create a quick travel corridor comes as no surprise today. Romania has an even worse problem and four times as many deaths (100 a day) attributable to COVID-19. What could be more logical?
A press conference in Bucharest featuring Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis announced Greece is eager to receive Romanian tourists before the EU agrees on creating its own vaccination certificates. Why am I imagining a dystopian human shuffle right now? I mean, who is planning this soup sandwich of emergency policy?
In Theoharis’ latest reopening Greece tourism in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, the Mitsotakis administration continues to get the cart before the proverbial horse COVID wise. News last week that Greece coronavirus infections were skyrocketing, and reports that Crete island’s medical facilities are overwhelmed by new cases, run counter to the country’s effort to reopen May 14th. Theoharis was quoted by ANA saying:
“We really want the EU to step up the procedure to release that EU health certificate. But until then we want to have discussions with the Romanian minister for tourism so that we can accept tourists even before reaching an agreement at a European level.”
Theocharis added Greece will look to accept vaccine certificates issued by Romania and that tourists from the Eastern European nation could start visiting as early as mid-April — a month before Greece’s official tourist season opens on May 14. Nowhere in Theoharis’ actions, nor apparently in his thinking, does the fact Greeks are not being immunized fast enough appear. Medical experts, pharmacists, politicians, and cittizens here in Heraklion tell me the rest of the “at risk” people will not even begin to be vaccinated until April 20.
Heraklion MP Nikos Igoumenidis just recently raised the alarm over the fact that some fully funded and staffed vaccine clinics in Heraklion Prefecture remain closed despite the urgent need to vaccinate citizens. And hospitals here on the island are critically overloaded, with the Easter holidays approaching. A key marketing executive I know says the administration is determined to reopen to tourists no matter what the COVID situation is.
The potential catastrophe permeates the business, civic, and political atmosphere here in Greece. The Mitsotakis campaign seems like a rudderless ship running full speed in the fog, with approaching ships horns blaring into the unknowing. I see Romanians in April, or Brits in May, walking the streets of Chania or Heraklion, with citizens still locked in their homes. Anyone who cannot see the collision course must be locked deep in a COVID fog.
With some Greeks vaccinated, and all tourists vaccinated, an adolescent mind may find the logic of this reopening campaign extravaganza. But, with half the people in both countries skeptical of the vaccine anyway, and a huge percentage up in arms over social distancing and mask, why can’t these politicians see the writing on the wall? It seems to me they are willing to risk thousands of lives, to ram on through the coronavirus pandemic on the hopes of eventual herd-vaccine immunity. The plan seems like evil genius for me.
Deputy Minister of Tourism, Sofia Zacharaki is aiding in this crazy campaign saying Greece has better tools and the vaccine to facilitate a safe reopening. Like Theorharis, she’s lauding last year’s reopen as a glowing success that somehow empowers the powers that be now. Missing in her narrative are the studies that now show Greece’s Summer 2020 program exacerbated the COVID situation in Greece and elsewhere. She is also failing to acknowledge the mixed signals Mitsotakis’ administration is sending the public. To distance, or not to distance, the people in the streets of Heraklion now have ZERO confidence in the New Democracy government.
This all seems like a last-ditch effort to stave off Mitsotakis’ party’s imminent disapproval vote, while at the same time favoring airlines, big resorts, and tour operators. At least, this is my take. And with another COVID intubation of patients record having been shattered on Sunday. Ironically, Romania broke its ICU record on Sunday as well. This story tells of people in Romania having to crisscross the country to get the vaccine because officials apparently cannot count. (I am not kidding) Let’s hope somebody is not Xeroxing COVID vaccination certificates in Europe in the coming days. One has to wonder when there will be some accountability. I reported recently on Mitsotakis diverting vaccines to remote islands instead of immunizing at risk people in big cities. Now, more have died needlessly.
In the latest news, Greece’s health minister is requisitioning private-sector doctors to help fight a renewed surge of cases. Welcome to Greece. Come, enjoy our treasures, and ignore those Greeks with dour complexions and still wearing masks because we couldn’t protect them. What a catastrophe. What callousness. Greece has a national emergency. Mitsotakis and his ministers should be confronting the life and death struggle first, and then the business of tourism second.
That’s all I have to say for now.