“One of the really difficult things to do is to carry out a successful public health endeavor when the country is divided and public health measures take on a political connotation, as opposed to dissociating it completely from politics and just concentrating on pushing ahead. So, the only way you are going to get through an outbreak of the coronavirus is by everybody pulling together in a common goal. The enemy is the virus. The enemy is not the opposition, politically. The enemy is the virus. And that is what we need to do, essentially join together against the virus.”
These are the words of Dr Anthony Fauci, US President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, from his interview with Kathimerini in March this year. The division in American society on which former president Donald Trump bet, where even the use of masks took on political symbolism, undermined the campaign against the pandemic in the United States, which resulted in a disproportionately high number of deaths – over 800,000 in two years.
In the same vein, the bulldozer tactics followed by main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras in Greece, betting on the unfavorable development of the pandemic to score political points, is unacceptable and wrong. It distracts the public from the common goal and sends the wrong messages of support to anti-vaccination groups and various conspiracy theorists.
However, the obstacles in dealing with the pandemic are often raised by the government itself. The indecisiveness and ambivalence of government officials create confusion among the public.
For example, the government rejected calls to expand compulsory vaccinations to those over the age of 60 for months, although the problems caused by the high percentage of unvaccinated people in that age group had been evident since April. The high mortality rate of unvaccinated elderly patients forced the administration into a U-turn.
Furthermore, you cannot have officials leaking that the authorities plan to mandate universal rapid testing ahead of New Year’s Eve, only to have the government backpedal the next day, just encouraging people to test themselves before and after attending gatherings.
The indecision of the conservative administration is a sign of ill preparation. The confusion is squandering precious political capital needed to see through difficult and painful decisions in the future.