by Maria Spiliopoulou, Valentini Anagnostopoulou
Greece has won praise internationally this spring from scientists and the media for its management of the COVID-19 crisis, as it has shown impressive results in containing the spread of the virus, keeping death rates low and flattening the pandemic’s curve, experts told Xinhua.
Since the detection of the first coronavirus case in the country on Feb. 26, Greece has confirmed 2,463 infections and 125 fatalities, according to the Health Ministry’s update on Thursday.
The keys to success were swift and sweeping restrictive measures introduced by the government and mature response from the people, who understood the seriousness of the situation, experts told Xinhua in recent interviews.
Even before March, the government had already canceled carnival celebrations. In early March, once the first coronavirus-related death was announced and while the number of confirmed infections was still in the dozens, schools, universities, gyms, cultural and sports centers, retail shops, museums, cafes, restaurants and churches were all shut down.
On March 23, the country went into full coronavirus lockdown, which is now extended till May 4.
Professor Panagiotis Behrakis, a Greek pulmonologist-intensivist, believes that the largest share of the success should be credited to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, “who very early and with great decisiveness made an intervention, which proved life-saving.”
The Greek government implemented prevention measures at the right time and this, in combination with their broad and unquestioning public acceptance, has led to today’s good results, he explained.
Within a few weeks, the number of intensive care unit beds, which stood at 565 in February, has almost doubled to 1,004 today, government spokesperson Stelios Petsas said, adding that 3,131 doctors and nurses have been hired to boost understaffed hospitals.
“We gave time to the healthcare system to function properly and did not let it collapse as it happened in other European countries with far stronger healthcare systems and far stronger economies than Greece,” Behrakis said.
Behrakis, who is also president of the Scientific Committee of the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention, pointed out that the Greeks are very cooperative once they are persuaded that the cause is right.
“This first happened with the anti-smoking law,” he said. “Nobody expected it to be simple and easy to have it accepted by the public. When the Greeks were told that we must now implement this law, they did just that. The same happened when the coronavirus hit,” he noted.
Elsa Barda, a clinical psychologist and behavior analyst, was also not surprised by the Greek public’s reaction.
“They managed to self-restrain in a very remarkable way. Therefore they are quite an example for many countries. This is because the Greek people have gone through a lot during the economic crisis, which lasted for a long period,” she told Xinhua.
Barda and other experts agree that the past decade of economic hardships has hardened the Greek people and thus they were prepared to face the new challenge.
“They know how to make personal sacrifices for the general good. The Greek people are very sociable, but they have this feeling of responsibility for the general good,” Barda said. Enditem