Good news from Greece

16 Comments

 

I once heard of a paper that published only good news. Next thing I heard it had gone broke. Unsurprisingly, for it seems that some part of human nature is hooked on bad news, and on bad news from big, important places.

A municipal worker disinfects Syntagma square on March 23, 2020 in Athens, Greece. (Getty Images/ Milos Bicanski)

In these troubled times of COVID-19, most news bulletins concentrate on the daunting figures from Italy, Spain, Britain and the USA. Little countries don’t get much of a mention. Greece is a little country, and the only mentions it gets in the mainstream press are dire forecasts of virus outbreaks in the country’s admittedly horrifying refugee camps, a prospect greatly to be feared, but so far not realised.

I didn’t vote for PM Mitsotakis, but must concede he is doing an excellent job: he heeded the grim scene developing in Italy, and acted with speed and decisiveness the minute danger threatened Greece. The first COVID-19 cases, three in number, were diagnosed on 26th February. The next day Carnival celebrations, always very big here in the run-up to Lent, were banned. Between 10th March and 13th March large numbers of shops, museums, archaeological sites and galleries were closed. So were schools and universities.

Since 23th March the whole country has been under strict lockdown: people are permitted to visit only supermarkets, the doctor, the chemist, banks, and people in need. Nobody can stir outdoors without permit and ID at the ready. These measures will be in force until 27th April, and could be extended beyond that date.

The PM is showing sound leadership, but the man of the hour is indisputably Professor Sotirios Tsiodras, an immunologist and specialist in infectious diseases, who presents a succinct report on the virus situation on national television every evening. He is methodical and calm in manner, and the country as a whole seems to be reassured by his presence. (I am absurdly pleased to learn he was born in Sydney!) He is accompanied by the impressive Deputy Minister for Civil Protection, Nikos Hardalias, and together they hold a Q and A session after their brief reports have been delivered.

I never thought I’d see the day when churches in Greece were closed, but closed they are, and for the first time ever Greeks are forbidden to return to their villages for Orthodox Easter, which falls on 19th April, a prohibition that is going to be hard for village oldies, who look forward to returns and celebrations every year. Mr Mitsotakis and his medical advisers presented the members of the Holy Synod with the scientific facts, and the clerics were eventually persuaded, even though most of them believe that the faithful are protected; it was a help that the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was on the PM’s side.

 

'I never thought I’d see the day when churches in Greece were closed, but closed they are.'

 

It is worth noting that the Greek Parliament is sitting. And in other news, as they say, the President (a woman at last!) has announced she will be donating half of her salary for the next two months to the COVID-19 Fund, which is to help in the provision of protective equipment and in giving some relief to families who are struggling to cope in the crisis. The PM, his Cabinet and MPs are set to follow the President’s example.

A prominent ship owner has also recently stated that it is the business of wealthy people to help, to engage in a spirit of philanthropy, which is, of course, a good Greek word. The parliamentary opposition is also expected to donate. We will see. And just recently the super-wealthy Stavros Niarchos Foundation has announced the release of $100 million, with the aim of combating the short and long-term effects of COVID-19.

There is a place for miracles in times of trouble. Greeks are not renowned for their obedience or spirit of co-operation with authority, but most people are complying with the rules at present. It is also something of a miracle that the health system and the government, beset with problems are they are, are coping reasonably well.

The greatest miracle of all is the result of all this effort, which we are continually exhorted never to relax. Thousands are dying just across the water, but at the time of writing there have been 81 deaths recorded in Greece. Mainstream media: please note and report.

 

Gillian BourasGillian Bouras is an expatriate Australian writer who has written several books, stories and articles, many of them dealing with her experiences as an Australian woman in Greece.

Main image: A municipal worker disinfects Syntagma square on March 23, 2020 in Athens, Greece. (Getty Images/ Milos Bicanski)

Topic tags: Gillian Bouras, Greece, COVID-19

 

 

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Existing comments

I have been very consciously aware of the lack of reporting on small countries and even not so small countries. I find it really frustrating that mainstream media is providing us with reports that suit a particular lens. I want to know more than what is being offered by the main news programs. I want to know what is happening in countries in South East Asia, in Africa, in South America. I am very touched by this story about Greece, which contains many positive elements within what is obviously a dire crisis across the globe. I am very grateful to the writer for sharing Greece's story with us.
Kirrilee Westblade | 15 April 2020


It is gut-wrenching to follow the news coming from, especially, Europe and USA concerning the fatalities due to COVID-19. The virus has spread worldwide and media are concentrating on the countries with the highest death rates. Still, 81 deaths is a staggering number for Greece and I don't know the words to say. Syntagma Square is very familiar to me, it is the heart of Athens and my prayers for your beautiful homeland, Gillian. Continued vigilance is so important.
Pam | 15 April 2020


In Praise of Good News - exactly! And good news from Greece as for here in Australia and even better still - so far (as we are learning to add) in New Zealand. Just thinking that my wife and I should have been now in balmy springtime Kalamata - while - as I understand - you were to be here in south-east Australia. How quickly our plans can be cancelled. But thank goodness we live in digital times. Your reports always carry positivity - for which - as always - my/our gratitude!
Jim KABLE | 15 April 2020


a spokesman for Sky news Paul Murray at the start of his programme emphasises what is the good news namely how the curve has been flatten and the amount of recovery as a per cent of those who have or still do have the virus also the small number of people who are quite sick from the virus...............the mainstream media appear from my observation to stick clear of making such highlights a feature of their news bulletins
michael jones | 15 April 2020


I am wondering if people in Greece will remain compliant once the weather begins to improve. Well Written Gillian
Stathis T | 15 April 2020


Thank you Gillian for some good news; I am only sorry not to be in Greece. Here in the UK there is very little that is positive and still a lot of people are not following government policy which admittedly has not always been clear. In spite of many communities acting with admirable good will the bad news is that scams and anti social behavior is still evident and the situation in care homes is unforgivable. The press are predictably looking for a negative angle and someone to blame for shortcomings. Well done Greece!
Maggie | 15 April 2020


The Greek Government's handling of the coronavirus crisis has far excelled that by other larger countries. In view of the huge migrant population which that country is also supporting this is doubly impressive. I have always found Gillian B ouras's reporting incisive and highly informative.
Meriel Wilmot-Wright | 15 April 2020


Good news from Greece, indeed, Gillian - from a country that at its height suffered the ravages of plague and war, but whose legacy, as Prof Oliver Taplin demonstrates compellingly in "Greek Fire", has been a beacon of civilised society in so many fields ever since.
John RD | 16 April 2020


Thank you for your discussion, I agree with your reflections, and as a consolation I assure you good news is welcome. I run my facebook page on a good news every day. People seem to follow and have have stopped sending me panic/bad news. Stories about distress caused by Governments in the area of human rights and refugees and other atrocities often too have a 'good'human lesson, so reporting this can give a good example of how to help and be part of the solution, rather than blaming. Stay safe and thank you for your articles. I enjoy reading your work.
Antonina Bivona | 16 April 2020


Dear Gillian What a pleasure it was to read just now your article - both for the outlook and content. Hooray for Greece. I hope you will see my comment a day late. Just this week I needed to switch over Office prayer books for the start of the official joyous part of the Easter season and found your Acropolis postcard to me sent after one of my own articles some years back. Which of course I was most delighted to receive. Very scary here for people in such overcrowded housing in Aboriginal communities. And yes Churches closed for the first time ever. I know we must continue to have genuine hope and that's what your article shines with very best
Michele Madigan | 16 April 2020


Oh, Gillian, how right you are! Good news from Greece (and around the world, I have to say). Yet, good news is not reported. All we hear and see is high drama, scandal and bad behaviour. What is it with us, humans? I have yet to hear a plausible explanation of why we are so drawn to bad news. However, thank you, Gillian, for your perspicacious comments about your adopted country and my own homeland. Your contribution to building bridges is greatly appreciated.
Helen Nickas | 16 April 2020


Good News Indeed! Tough times, but it seems there are Nations whose citizens are willing to follow calm, clear leadership that is informed by medical and scientific expertise. More attention should be given to those Nations who are 'getting it right'.
Stephen | 16 April 2020


A fascinating and inspiring account of what seems to be an exemplary attempt to combat COVID19 in Greece which has been unreported in Australia. One can only hope that the fate of the refugees in camps is not disastrous.
Juliet | 17 April 2020


Gillian, What wonderful and refreshing news! We were in Greece just over 12 months ago. Loved Athens . We travelled north to Thessaloniki. A beautiful country.So sad it has gone through such turmoil in recent years. I agree with everyone about the media reporting. We have family in the Philippines and depend on messages from my sister-in-law as to how they are coping. They have had a total shut down and like Greece few cases that we are aware of so far.Gillian we envy you! Like Greece all Churches here are closed.
Gavin O'Brien | 17 April 2020


Thank you for your good news story from Greece, Gillian. It’s heartening that a country such as Greece can act with such swift action and daily decorum while some others who procrastinated, became overwhelmed and were soon out of control. This virus acts fast, and yet if we keep our head and remain resolutely disciplined we can survive, and possibly defeat it. In Australia I believe we are fortunate to have the daily voice of the informative Dr. Norman Swan from the ABC who is not backward in gently and reasonably challenging the government. Consequently, and in the main we have settled on wise decisions, with some exceptions, dare I say Ruby Princess! I hope we as a world can learn something from this as the more insidious climate change awaits around the corner, and though a little slower, will be just as ruthless. This virus has brought out the best and worst in humanity, but hopefully the world will find a way to blunder through it.
John Whitehead | 18 April 2020


Historically Greece has punched well above its size, as in Classical Greece and Byzantium. Where would the entire civilised world, especially in the West, be without them? During the long dark years of Ottoman rule Greeks never gave up their identity. Legions of Greeks made incredible sacrifices during the War of Independence. The Second World War was also a very hard time for Greece. I am not surprised at the enormous generosity of Greeks at this time.
Edward Fido | 23 April 2020


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