Opinion - Greece's Covid - 19 success goes beyond the lockdown
(3 min read.)
The center of Athens is once again a vibrant city with small coffee shops, scenic views of the Acropolis, and people gathered in squares enjoying the summer breeze. The smell of fresh baked goods travels along the narrow city streets leaving behind an economic crisis, a refugee crisis, and a pandemic.
What led to Greece's Covid-19 success?
The availability of free and accurate information, access to coronavirus tests, and the Greek culture.
TV programs and ads. provided more than the basic information on how to wear a mask and keep a distance; they showed circumstances where those lessons could be applied.
For example, doctors and physicians, instead of simply stating that people need to keep a distance of 1.5 meters, showed the correct way to jog outdoors and stay safe when other people pass by. They specifically, featured a person in different scenarios and also explained the different pathways that germs can take when someone sneezes or coughs as well as how to protect your partner if they're jogging with you. By giving people a clear visualization of how to protect themselves, they limited the cases of panicking among pedestrians and eased the way to close human interaction in the future.
For people feeling sick or displaying symptoms that did not require hospitalization, Greek doctors were available via phone every day to provide advice and prescribe medication when needed. Those services were provided for free, even from private doctors. Greece did not put a price on citizen's health.
Testing was made available almost immediately and encouraged by the government. According to the National Public Health Organization, between March 27th and April 3rd, more than 22 thousand tests were conducted.
With half the technological tools available to other countries, Greece's government services that had been in person for years went online. That helped thousands of Greeks who depended on those government services to get things done from home.
But perhaps, a small part of the success was also because of Greece's culture...
Hospitality is an ancient greek value that has carried through generations. This is why most Greeks keep their houses clean and stocked with fresh food. Back in the old times, a visitor could show up anytime, and not being prepared was considered rude.
In a culture known for its large celebrations and gatherings, how did Greece have only 2,906 cases and 175 deaths? Could part of this long tradition of cleanliness protected Greeks from contracting the virus by minimizing their chances of touching an infected surface?
Lastly, while the restrictions on movement contributed to the containment of the virus and, most importantly, to the achievement of virus-free islands, not every aspect of the lockdown was effective.
The initial measures, which included Greeks sending a text to indicate whether they were running an errand or exercising outdoors, provided a platform to manage citizens gatherings in public spaces and avoid a cluster of people at any given time. Travel to and from the islands was not allowed to protect people living in rural areas with little access to medical help.
But extreme measures such as those taken at the airport to handle arriving citizens increased the risk of contracting the virus and threatened people's freedom. The packing of people into groups and the maltreatment of citizens resulted in shadowing some of Greece's lockdown achievements.
Nevertheless, the country is an example of beating a virus that has destroyed economies worldwide.
On June 15th, the borders will be open to 29 countries.
Tourists will fill the islands with what we seem to have taken for granted this year: life...