OPINION

From the use of masks to festivals

from-the-use-of-masks-to-festivals

The simpler and clearer the steps to protect ourselves from the novel coronavirus look, the more complicated and socially inapplicable they prove to be.

Social distancing is not observed, crowding has returned, masks seem to be used only by the overly cautious, and while antiseptics remain in use, they are not enough to save the situation.

A month ago, the problem was limited to beach bars and beaches. Authorities imposed fines which might have reduced the uncontrolled tendency to violate any restrictive measures and protocols.

And then tourists began to arrive, infections began to rise and experts were worried, while yesterday authorities announced additional measures mainly for tourists arriving by car from neighboring Balkan countries. Instead of limiting the risks, they seem to be increasing.

The problem is not just with foreign tourists. Despite the publicity that local outbreaks have received, various festivals are still being organized in some parts of Greece. A few days ago, one was held in Aliartos and recently there was another one in Kozani, and infectious disease specialists appear very worried. Some are calling for festivals to be banned this year, and it is clear that mayors and local government bear a large share of responsibility for the issue.

And what are we left with once all the “musts” and “shoulds” have been exhausted, along with the strictness of the instructions issued by government officials and experts? What can limit the apparent relaxation in attitudes that is followed by repeated warnings? The unknown Covid-19 and its persistent presence around the world leaves no room for complacency.  

We had to reach this phase of the pandemic, with the lifting of the bans, to see that the concept of individual responsibility had been overestimated. Superlatives have been exhausted and people are left with their personal assessments of how to face the risks. They filter and adapt each bit of information according to their strengths and needs.

In other words, people listen to what serves them and interpret the instructions as they wish, from the use of masks to the opening of festivals.

The coronavirus does not only test the national health system but also people’s maturity, the cohesion of societies, and people’s ability to exert self-control. Trust in experts and institutions does not absolve us of our individual responsibility.