OPINION

The hard truths about Covid-19

the-hard-truths-about-covid-19

It is worth noting certain uncomfortable truths regarding the government measures and public attitudes toward the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic is speeding up again around the world, in Europe and in Greece. Scientists and state officials are constantly issuing recommendations and warnings about the risks.

At the same time, authorities are introducing measures in a bid to stem the spread of the virus as cases have spiked after the relaxation of restrictions. It was hoped that the rising temperatures would weaken the virus. Also, the expectation was that people would demonstrate a sense of discipline and social responsibility so that epidemic levels would remain relatively low during the summer months and researchers would buy some time in their efforts to discover a cure or a vaccine. Regrettably, these expectations were defeated. As it turned out, warm weather encouraged crowding and lax attitudes. There are many reasons why it is hard to be optimistic about the near future. In fact, the recommendations and warnings issued by experts have indicated that there is little optimism among the scientific community either.

We, as a society, believed that the successful management of the coronavirus – in the first stage and compared to many other countries – was thanks to the self-discipline displayed by the Greek people. This was the mantra communicated by the government and the systemic media across the country. But it was wrong to believe that the early Covid-19 invasion was curbed thanks to a strong display of Greek discipline, as if the nation’s character had changed overnight. The virus was contained because the measures were strict and inclusive; and because the average Greek was horrified at the tragedy unfolding at the time in neighboring Italy.

In other words, the average Greek did not change (in fact, the lack of discipline and social responsibility is not exclusive to our population). Neither did the mentality, the habits or behavior change. And the concept of “philotimo,” which the Greek prime minister referred to in an apparent act of desperation, is little more than a national legend. After the nationwide lockdown was lifted, as it had brought the economy to a halt, the few signs of self-discipline and social responsibility waned. 

It is not known if experts believe that their recommendations and the new measures can have any meaningful effect on public attitudes and the spread of the virus. Their realism as scientists most probably leaves little room for optimism. They are certainly aware that young people are not following the media that usually broadcast experts’ advice. They are not interested and they have not been educated in showing discipline. Meanwhile, a large chunk of the population are not paying heed to developments and instructions by authorities. And there are more reasons to be pessimistic: the existence of conspiracy theorists, of Covid-19 deniers, of business owners that disregard laws and regulations and, finally, the fact that law abidance in Greece is weak, particularly outside urban centers.

To paraphrase Groucho Marx, these are my opinions; and if you don’t like them, I have (more convenient) others.