Today is the first day of a lockdown over Greece. From now and until who knows when we have to send an SMS stating which of the six permitted reasons we are using to leave our house. Social distancing has been advised since the first case of covid-19 was diagnosed here and as the government was quick to close schools, gyms and any shop or service other than pharmacies and food outlets we were well prepared for this news.
We are all in a horrible situation but it has given me a look in at the Greeks and the British that I have never seen before. Right from the start, there has been no panic buying in Greece and none of the selfish, nonsensical scrambling to stock up that has been noticed elsewhere. People have been so stoic, so uncomplaining, and by and large, so thoughtful of their fellow citizens I am in awe.
To me, the health ministry’s spokesman for covid-19 encapsulated the Greek spirit best in a recent televised address. In response to a colleague from abroad who felt that this country was making a lot of fuss just to protect the elderly and weak and in a voice that cracked with emotion he said, “They are our parents and grandparents. We honour, respect and care for all people but above all, them. We wouldn’t exist and we would have no identity without them.”
How different to Boris Johnson’s original stance of putting the economy first and letting the strong survive from a herd immunity scenario that only the dimmest and cruellest of thinkers could endorse. That made for an unpleasant look in on my own country’s leadership and morals and it’s certainly not one to be proud of. Seeing pictures of continuing crowds, empty supermarket shelves and today’s news that six ambulances had their tires slashed deliberately last night make me almost despair.
It might have been harsh to close everything down, and terrible for a weak economy, but the Greek government has been firm in its resolve. Above all, they have issued clear, concise, unchanging instructions which in turn have created a trust, I think. Again, who knew that Greeks would ever listen to and obey their government? Anarchy, anyone?
Changing approaches but remaining the populist, in Britain Johnson let pubs, restaurants and shops decide for themselves if they should remain open. In a health emergency such as this, that is giving people a license to kill. Until recent events, I think most of the world saw England as a pretty civilised, law abiding place…now it looks like the Wild West.
These are just a few thoughts from this first day of lockdown. I hope they are not too divisive, we all have enough of that. Above all else, I hope that the world learns that we need to pull together to stop the spread of this horrible virus.
(In case anyone is wondering, I am British but have lived in Athens for many years.)