In November last year, our country was wounded by the advance of the second pandemic wave.
Influenced by the summer euphoria and intent upon tempering the economic repercussions of the previous three-month lockdown, authorities acted late, allowing the virus to spread.
That harmed mainly northern Greece, where for various reasons – religious, political, and others – abidance by protective public health restrictions was and remains lacking.
We see the same behaviour this year, at the start of the extremely strong fifth wave of the pandemic.
The government again wavered about when to intervene by instituting public health restrictions.
Characteristically, it was late once again.
Everyone can comprehend that it is bedeviled by the dilemma of choosing between the economy and public health measures and that it is confronted with intense social pressures. Everyone understands the argument that now we have vaccines, which are available to all citizens.
However, the message of last of our experience last year is resounding and leaves no room for reservations.
From a simple reading of official data, it is plainly clear that most cities in northern Greece have a much lower rate of vaccination than the nationwide average.
There are areas where the majority of citizens are unvaccinated. That provides fertile ground for the spread of the virus. That, in turn, is threatening the lives of the most vulnerable citizens, especially elderly vaccine deniers, who are swayed by fanatical priests, irresponsible politicians, and even charlatan doctors, who deny the achievements of science, which they are supposed to serve.
The situation in northern Greece and most all provinces, with the exception perhaps of the Aegean islands, does not permit optimism.
According to the projections of epidemiologists, over the next three or four months COVID-19 may infect up to 1,000,000 Greeks, of whom about 4,000 would die, raising the total number of people who have perished since the start of the pandemic to over 20,000.
The threat to public health is obviously great. In light of that, no one is entitled to remain apathetic or to seek exemptions from public health measures designed to check the epidemic.
It is at the very least unseemly for the government to be less daring than the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece in adopting measures to protect the faithful.
It was also wrong from the start to categorically reject the compulsory vaccination of doctors and healthcare workers, civil servants, priests, the military, policemen, employees at large public enterprises, bank employees, and employees of large private businesses that come into contact with the public.
There are examples of successful enforcement of compulsory vaccination. US President Joe Biden did not hesitate in making vaccination compulsory for federal employees. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi successfully followed a similar course.
It is worth mentioning that a segment of the private sector also made vaccination mandatory to protect their staff and customers from the danger of the coronavirus. A prime example is football teams, which successfully enforced the requirement that one show a vaccination certificate before entering a stadium, and fans complied without a backlash.
Given all of the above, one would have expected a more decisive and solid stance from the government.
It had earned international kudos and the trust of the Greek people due to its immediate and decisive stance in managing the first wave of the pandemic, in spring, 2020.
Most citizens now expect a comparable, decisive stance from the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.