Under cover of the pandemic, Greece’s right-wing government has passed a slew of new measures to benefit the wealthy at the expense of workers, while massively expanding police powers. On the back of a decade of austerity, the latest laws are set to transform the country into a client state and playground for foreign tourists.
by Matthaios Tsimitakis/Mihalis Panayiotakis
Part 3 - Losing Control
For more than six months now, practically all of Greece has been under strict lockdown and under curfew. Despite this, a deadly second wave mostly affecting the country’s north hit in the winter, and a third wave is now ravaging Athens, home to almost half the Greek population. Vaccination numbers remain relatively low due to the disastrous handling of vaccine procurement deals by the EU. Even now, the pandemic’s intensity shows no signs of abating.
But even with the lockdowns — which offer diminishing returns and feed economic and psychological anguish — the health system remains on the edge of a breakdown. ICU beds across the country are now stretched beyond capacity. According to a striking figure shared by a spokesperson for the executive pandemic expert committee, 20 percent of COVID-19–related deaths occur outside ICU clinics. At the height of the second wave in November and December last year, that figure is calculated to be close to 70 percent.
Despite this, the government continues to refuse to invest in creating and staffing more ICUs, nor to force the private sector to shoulder part of the burden, claiming that it would be a waste of money.
The economy, too, seems on the verge of collapse. Under the restrictions, bars, cafes, and restaurants have been shut since November. The tourist industry, which was contributing close to 20 percent of the country’s GDP, has taken an 80 percent hit; this has meant an 8 percent decline in GDP, and a majority of workers and small business owners are facing disaster on the scale of that produced by the rounds of austerity of the last decade.
With poverty on the rise, inadequate financial support from the government, and flagrant infringement of quarantine rules by members of the administration itself — including at least twice by the prime minister — popular frustration and anger are at a high, decimating the stellar government approval numbers of April 2020.