OPINION

Time for bold decisions

time-for-bold-decisions

“Intensive care units in Thessaloniki are full and we have to intubate Covid patients inside operating rooms,” a doctor said Tuesday, describing the devastating situation in northern Greece. Later in the evening, health officials announced another 4,165 coronavirus infections. 

The stubbornly high infection rates in the country however do not seem to be having an effect on the government. Officials repeat the mantra that “vaccines save lives” and are trying to convince the public that despite the fact that the virus is claiming more than 30 lives daily, Greece is getting back to “normal.” In its efforts to uphold the narrative of “normality,” the administration had originally been planning to go ahead with the Ochi Day parades in northern Greece. The period of national mourning declared after the death of Socialist leader Fofi Gennimata gave the conservatives an excuse to cancel some of the celebrations.

Greece, like the rest of Europe, should brace for yet another coronavirus wave, which will mostly affect unvaccinated individuals (and a small share of the vaccinated population). Political parties must find common ground on the pandemic without delay. The juxtaposition between opposition chief Alexis Tsipras’ fearmongering and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ self-congratulating is unhelpful and needs to stop.

If the government wants to avoid further political damage after the massive summer wildfires and the ensuing floods, then it must move forward with bold decisions. It must expand mandatory vaccination to more social groups (like civil servants, for example), following the example of the United States and Italy. It must also take a more aggressive approach toward the unvaccinated over 60 – around half a million people.

Pro-vaccination TV spots starring 70-something celebrities, mobile vaccination units going door-to-door offering vaccination, the mobilization of local authorities and doctors in the countryside, bonuses or other incentives – these are some of the things the authorities can do to reduce the number of unvaccinated people who, studies show, are mostly hesitant or afraid rather than deniers.

Tsipras must also throw his weight behind such a campaign. The leftist leader must not use the pandemic to score political points when Greece, in fact, fared better than most European countries. Let’s not forget that his former alternate health minister was until recently questioning the efficiency of vaccinations. When it comes to the opposition, the lack of responsibility can seriously damage public health.