We had stressed months ago that the Covid-19 vaccination drive and tourism were the biggest challenges facing the government. These are interdependent as widespread immunization would make for a safer destination and serve as a lure for tourism, a mainstay of the Greek economy. It all depended, of course, on the pandemic easing in other parts of the world as well.
Unfortunately, things did not go quite as the government – and thinking citizens with any sense of civic duty – had hoped. Despite being very well organized, the vaccination campaign has been held up by the hesitancy and denial of a large part of the population, putting herd immunity further out of reach and dashing hopes of a much better tourism season that last year’s. We can only hope that the situation will turn around in the second half of the summer.
Is the government responsible for the situation? Despite what the opposition may say, obviously not. The phenomenon of Covid-19 deniers and naysayers is not only global, it is also huge, irrespective of the different characteristics it may take on in different countries. The difference here is that the restrictive measures adopted were “a la grecque,” meaning that the responsibility for their implementation was spread wide and thin. In the meantime, there was more confusion on the global front with regard to the vaccines – their efficacy and side effects – strengthening the positions of the hesitant and deniers.
Mainly, though, the virus itself showed incredibly durability and adaptability in the form of variants, so that the alarm bells continue to ring with rising urgency across the world. And so the governments of all the countries we are interested in as tourist markets are trying to protect their citizens, but also trying to convince them to choose holiday destinations at home, in a bid to bolster their own economies.
It is in this changeable landscape that the Greek government is trying to find a solution – without any guarantees about the result. It is introducing monetary incentives that, granted, undermine the effort to cultivate civic responsibility, but are also necessary in the hopes of bringing more people to vaccination centers. It is offering greater freedoms to people who are inoculated that, yes, are hard to implement and police, and it is facing an uphill battle to create the best possible set of circumstances that will bring in some tourists.
We don’t know when the UK will lift restrictions. The government, meanwhile, had to make the rules stricter for the Russians and Chinese with regard to their vaccines after facing objections from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, fearing that she would put Greece on her country’s no-go list. On the other hand, we must ask ourselves: Do we want hundreds of thousands of British and Russian tourists now that the Delta variant is sweeping through their countries?