It’s 3.30 a.m. at the Kasbah club and bar in Skala, Patmos. Europe’s young and not-so-young are enjoying a well-deserved summer night of fun. From all over Europe they come – including France, Austria, Belgium, Italy and of course Greece. American accents are few and far between this year, wealthy Turks are nowhere to be seen, and the crowd smaller than in the past. Otherwise the “new normal” looks very much like the old one.
But local business owners and visitors alike are growing more worried by the day. Even though there are no confirmed Covid cases on the island, they see what is happening around them.
How much bad luck would it take for Patmos to become a kind of summer Ischgl, the unfortunate and now infamous Austrian ski resort? Last spring, in that town of just 1,500 people, one bar – Kitzloch – is now believed to have played a crucial role in spreading Covid-19 throughout Scandinavia and the Benelux.
Back at Kasbah, many forsake the safer outside space overlooking the sea – with dozens inside, cooled by the air conditioning.
If just one of them is infected – even with youth’s predisposition to asymptomatic or mild symptoms – that closeness and that air conditioning could spread it to their international friends in a moment. And then how long till the less strong unfortunate “giagia” they see next morning comes down with a much more serious set of symptoms?
And then we are heading full speed to an Antwerp, Leicester or perhaps Kavala-style, local lockdown.
My plea to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is not to close down the young and not-so-young’s summer’s fun. It is simply to move it outside – where the risks are so much less.
Close the bars inside. The new policy of masks and sitting down inside is nonsense – it’s neither policeable nor enforceable. Simplicity and clarity is what is needed.
If the British can be seriously considering closing down pubs all winter in order to allow schools to stay open, surely Greeks and their summer visitors can drink and party outside.
So change the law – let’s move outside and protect the health of the vulnerable, and also save what’s left of the all too crucial income of the tourist season for restaurateurs, hoteliers and shop owners.
For if indoor bars are allowed to continue, I fear we will all be back in lockdown before we have time to get to the bar and buy a round.
And talking about money, if you want to support those working inside bars who will suffer, let’s have an income support scheme for them – one that doesn’t force them to put their own health at risk too.
Nigel Gardner is a former BBC journalist, who now writes on occasion for The Times, Guardian and other titles.