Being on a huge high after winning the Euro football championship and hosting the Olympics in 2004, as well as winning Eurovision and the Eurobasket in 2005, Greece’s high came crashing down in 2010 under pressure from the economic collapse. After these immense achievement and known as the “Cradle of Western Civilization,” Greece was called by the Europeans as corrupt and lazy, and known as the “black sheep of Europe.”
However, after skilfully navigating through Turkey’s asymmetric invasion attempt by unleashing tens of thousands of illegal immigrants on Greece’s doorstep only last month, the Mediterranean country became known as “Europe’s Shield.”
Fast forward a month later to today, and now Europe is looking towards Greece and wondering why the small country, who between 2010 and 2015 had its medical sector budget slashed by 50% and 35,000 doctors leave to work in Germany, is successfully dealing with coronavirus.
One of the reasons for putting a leash on the spread of coronavirus was Greece’s quick actions to impose lockdowns.
Coronavirus sadly went out of control in Italy (140,000 cases) and Spain (150,000 cases) with over 17,500 and 15,000 dying respectively, while Greece has just under 1,900 cases and 83 deaths. Even when accounting for population differences, we are talking about differences in total cases and deaths of 40 times more than Greece.
However, if we compare it to countries with similar populations, the evidence is clear.
Of course the data is a few days old, but it does give some indications on just how well Greece is doing in handling the crisis compared to some of its other European counterparts with a similar population who have a much higher GDP and do not have devastated healthcare systems.
The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera mentions how Greece is dealing with the pandemic successfully.
“Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was careful and humble” and “this time, Greece is teaching lessons in northern Europe,” the newspaper said.
The newspaper says credit should be given because without even people dying yet, Greeks were able to respect the rules set by the government.
Concluding, Corriere della Sera claims that “some observers say that the reduction of the disease was easier, because Greece is not extremely densely populated. But in fact, in Athens and other big cities, people are frequenting cafes, perhaps more than any other European city.”
In an article on Al-Jazeera, titled ‘How Greece flattened the coronavirus curve’, the Qatari outlet said “Greeks quickly put their revolutionary spirit aside […] and largely heeded government advice to remain indoors. The result has been a remarkably low number of deaths.”
Bloomberg also praised Greece for its responses, saying: “One other example comes from Greece, which has been bracketed together with Italy and Spain in economic misery for a decade now, and generally suffered much more. On the coronavirus it seems to have done something right. Greece closed down its economy at the first sign of trouble, just as tourist resorts were about to reopen. It looks to have worked.”
From once being the black sheep of Europe, it now appears that the rest of Europe certainly has a lot to learn from Greece once again as it is the shining example on a continent being devastated.