US, Russia Join Praise for Greek Church's COVID-19 Response


Τhe United States Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt. (Eurokinissi/ Yiorgos Kontarinis)

Plaudits for Greece's rapid response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic that saw the country the best performing in the European Union among the countries in the world with the lowest relative number of cases drew praise too from the United States and Russia for the Greek Church adhering to the lockdown and closing churches for Easter.

US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt applauded the Greek Orthodox Church for keeping the faithful away from churches while the Russian Embassy lauded the “mature” response after the Church initially had said Holy Communion wasn't risky and wanted to keep churches open.

Pyatt tweeted "admiration" for the Greek Church's "determination to protect the health and safety" of churchgoers in an country which is overwhelmingly Orthodox without mentioning it came after prodding fro Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The Russian Embassy has tweeted its best Easter wishes (in Greek), saying that "The Greek Government adopted effective measures and the Greek people shows patience and responsibility in our common goal of fighting with the pandemic."

In a piece earlier, The Conversation, an online independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community, noted Greece's outstanding record in holding down the number of cases and deaths with an early lockdown as other countries lagged.

“It seems extraordinary that a country of about 11 million people, with only 565 intensive care unit beds at the beginning of March 2020, could manage to deal with the coronavirus crisis,” said the piece, written by Stella Ladi, a Senior Lecturer in Public Management, Queen Mary University of London.

She pointed out how Mitsotakis quickly a national experts committee on public health and the Ministry of Health Sotirios Tsiordas, a professor of pathology and infectious disease, as its COVID-19 spokesperson.

The government also ramped up a strategy for a health care system decimated by a decade of budget cuts under austerity required as part of three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($354.52 billion) and closed schools, non-essential businesses and banned gatherings.

That was done before even a single death and the measures as of Easter held cases down to 2,235 with 110 deaths, the lowest ratio in the European Union and among the lowest in the world among countries hardest hit by the deadly virus.

The government managed to almost double the Intensive Care Unit (ICU capacity) to 910 beds by the end of March via public sector coordination, smooth cooperation with the private sector and philanthropic donations, the piece added.

She added as other countries struggled to persuade people to stay home and didn't opt for early lockdowns, paying the price in heavy death tolls, that Greece was different and stood out as a shining example of a model.

“In Greece, the government opted for an early and consistent message – this is an emergency and the priority is to save human lives.” She added: “The economy is the next most important issue to deal with, but the government has been clear that it comes second.”