European and Greek responses to the fifth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

The Covid-19 pandemic is taking a turn for the worse, with the ominous help of the Omicron variant – all around the world, clearly so in Europe.

In the UK some sort of lock-down is discussed; in the Netherlands a two-week lock-down has been imposed, right in the middle in the Christmas/New Year’s season; France and Denmark are limiting festivities and night-life; in Germany, health minister Karl Lauterbach talked of a unique challenge that societies will be confronted with, while the Koch Institute considers the Omicron variant the core of the new – fifth – surging wave of the pandemic.

What is the Greek version of facing up to that challenge? To be fair, officials in charge were prompted in introducing incoming travel restrictions: visitors to Greece have to produce a negative PCR or rapid test at arrival. But fear of economic fallout of any restrictions in public entertainment, everyday life and the such-like limits any restrictive measures to the non-vaccinated elder population (the Covid situation has been called “a pandemic of the non-vaccinated” in a questionable effort to step-up inoculations).

Greece being – well…– Greece, the balance is made of political invective. In the budget debate in Parliament the Opposition called for the Government to resign for its botched management of the pandemic; the Prime Minister replied he would dearly like to call a snap election just to revel in his opponent panic-to-come. The background to that: a piece of research published in a peer-reviewed Scandinavian journal coming from the PM’s main scientific advisor stated that Covid-19 patients incubated out of ICU’s were significantly more exposed to terminal risk; also that hospitals out of the Greater Athens area were lethally disadvantaged to that respect. Some days earlier none less than PM Mitsotakis had stated that out-of-ICU incubation provided treatment of no less value to the patients (to understand such an unconscionable statement, later retracted by the PM, one has to take into account the situation of ICU overflow in too many Greek hospitals).

So, in the most Greek of manners, debating over the ominously close fifth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic soon enough got off the rails.