In the times of Delta and Omicron variants, Greece risks stumbling

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

For modern Greeks, the use of Ancient Greek alphabet letters in – say – astronomy (Alpha Centauri/aCen is a gravitationally bound star system, Beta Cygni/bCyg is double-star Albireo), physics (gamma rays) medicine (delta waves in EEG) may well sound a matter of praise if not of pride. When it comes to Covid variants /mutations, though, things are far more hazardous, or at least unpleasant: variants Alpha and Beta slipped away rather innocuously; Delta was fraught with risk (Delta+ came along), since it proved for more contagious and no-less deadly; now comes along Omicron/ B.1.1.529 whose high number of mutations within the spike protein, may well help the virus evade vaccine-induced immune protection.

Greece has been unable to build anything close to an immunity wall (less than 65% of its population has received the jab), while the mortality rate remains comparatively high (probably due to the fact that older people have been disproportionately reluctant/unwilling to get vaccinated) and its national health service is buckling under the last Covid-19 wave.

A far more ominous dimension of the Greek way in going around the Covid-19 threat is the eagerness of its political system to try and raise political capital out the pandemic situation The Government has projected a radiant picture of success in dealing with Covid – which might have been founded in fact in the first phases, but is rapidly coming apart at the seams – fast; the part that really hurts in such a stance, is that public opinion is prone to translate the picture of success into less and less individual precautions and social distancing – just as Delta (and now Omicron) were coming on board.

The Opposition, on its part, made use of the pandemic situation to snipe – then to drop shellfire – on the Government over its treatment of the pandemic situation; only belatedly, an effort was made to provide some sort of coherent proposals over alternative ways of dealing with it.

Meanwhile, anti-vaccination sentiment has been left to run rampant, with Church-based and alt-Right (in a Mediterranean version) elements feeding into it.

So, as Omicron fears spead, Greece risks stumbling in a bruising way.