A Traffic Police officer signals to the driver of a bus in downtown Athens to pull over for an inspection, on Wednesday. [ANA-MPA]
There is no doubt that the evolution of the coronavirus pandemic has put the government – and the country – in a tight spot, having to protect public health while ensuring the functioning of the economy. It is a conundrum shared in many parts of the world right now. No government wants to impose a new lockdown after the economic effects of the first proved so devastating. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said as much recently, but the pandemic may have different plans.
Whatever comes next, the risk of widespread social reactions to fresh strict measures is very real. For the time being, these tend to be restricted to various kooks who in countries like the United States have specific political stripes, but generally tend to belong to the political fringes. However, if the pandemic continues to worsen and new lockdowns become inevitable, their impact on the world’s economies will likely trigger reactions from millions of people already on the brink of despair.
Unfortunately, the signs so far are not good. Experience has shown us that easing measures played a much bigger role than expected in the spread of the virus, in Greece and elsewhere. Expectations that the warm summer weather would weaken the virus have been dashed; instead, we have seen an increase in behavior that fuels the spike.
We can safely conclude that the discipline of the Greek people during the first wave of the pandemic was due to the severity of the restrictions adopted and fear following the devastation in neighboring Italy. We can also argue that the lifting of restrictions returned the country to “normal,” meaning to its notorious aversion for rules and lack of social responsibility.
The stars of this attitude – across the world – are young people who feel immune (quite mistakenly) and have found an opportunity to rebel. Maybe this is because they grew up in an environment without any clear distinctions between democratic liberalism and impunity. They are, of course, being egged on by sundry smart alecks trying to turn a profit by flouting the rules.
No one doubts that the government has taken full political responsibility for the impact of easing measures, perhaps against the recommendations of experts in some instances. That said, it did not have much choice. Nevertheless, it is also true that some of its decisions have been contradictory.