Of “smart” responses to the pandemic and of self-encouragement routines

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

The story comes from back when there were dark woods and dense forests that haunted the imagination. Its narrative goes that, when kids venture into the thick of the forest and lost their way, they kept going on – but started singing so that they heard the echo of their voices and got courage out the sounds they heard – and interpreted them as coming from other wanderers.

So it goes with the new set of measures and routines adopted in Greece in response to the mounting pandemic wave that has given the lie to earlier expectations that there would be some measure of relaxation of the current lock-down of some five months’ duration. Indeed, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis entered last week the minefield of a weary public opinion promising that “smart measures” would be put in place so as to relieve mounting tensions of an economic and social – but also of a deeply psychological – nature. Instead, a surge of Covid-19 infections led the authorities to impose stricter routines; it takes some goodwill to describe as “smart” the imposition of a curfew over the weekend at 19:00 hrs (instead of 18:00 hrs), or the enforcement of a 2km -radius for those who need to shop or do banking not around the corner.

It is interesting to notice that PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who in earlier stages of the pandemic had taken the lead in announcing tough decisions in formal addresses or friendlier chats, this time around left the honour of announcing tough-and-obnoxious decisions to apposite lieutenants such as Civil Protection head Nikos Hardalias.

True to form for a Greek politician, Kyriakos Mitsotakis got back to the limelight to extoll success in vaccinations: the one-million mark of shots has been surpassed at end-February and the much anticipated “vaccination protective wall” is progressing. Still, since the vaccines administered up to now – mainly Pfizer for the elderly, with some Moderna, with Astra Zeneca following for younger age cohorts – are of the double-dose kind, 1.000.000 shots have covered fully 600-700.000 people, with a further 300.000 in first-shot status. Which adds up to some 650.000 people, that is close to 6% of the population – plus those who have got immunity after contacting and surviving Covid-19. Not bad by European stand ards, but nothing to go home really dancing about.