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Society

COVID-19 Has Greeks Anxious About Making Ends Meet

ATHENS – With a lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus slowly being lifted in stages, Greeks are able to get out of their homes more and even return to work as small shops open but most are worried about their finances.

Some 80 percent of people in a survey  conducted by the Institute for Health Communication and Literacy in cooperation with the Healthpharma website said they were fearful about their finances although only 10 percent said they worried about losing jobs.

Unemployment that had been coming down after hitting record peaks during the height of the economic crisis could soar again to as much as 22 percent or more and the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expected to shrink 10 percent or more.

The country was beginning to speed a recovery from a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis that required successive governments to request from international creditors what turned into 326 billion euros ($353.78 billion.)

Those ended on Aug. 20, 2018 and the New Democracy government, which replaced the former ruling anti-business Radical Left SYRIZA in July 7, 2019 snap elections, was also going to return some benefits to workers and pensioners and cut taxes.

Then COVID-19 hit, the state had to dole out 17.5 billion euros ($18.99 billion) in aid to laid-off workers and businesses that had to shut down during the lockdown and with coffers being drained without being replenished.

There are worries that many businesses will either not reopen or not be profitable enough to stay in operation as health protocols will limit how many customers can be in stores and establishments such as restaurants and taverns will only be allowed to use outdoor seats.

Being stuck at home except for some permissible missions during the six-week lockdown that began March 23 had a toll on psychological health too although most people quarantined said they alleviated loneliness by talking with friends or family on the phone or over the Internet, with services such as Skype allowing them to see each other too.

The study was conducted on April 23-28 on 1,322 individuals, finding that 41.6 percent claimed to have felt “calm” during the lockdown and 37.1 percent feeling “troubled,” said Kathimerini in a report.

Problems sleeping during the preceding 40 days of the survey were reported by 13.8 percent, with 23.2 percent saying they were having trouble with time management and 15 percent finding it harder to concentrate.

Greeks notorious for flouting laws and defiance mostly stayed in line during the lockdown with the survey finding 90.3 percent said they followed health guidelines including washing hands frequently and 78.6 percent practicing social distancing of staying at least 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) apart.

Some 60 percent also said they were confident in daily updates from the Health Ministry conducted by University of Athens professor and infectious diseases expert Dr. Sotiris Tsiodras, who drew international acclaim for his calm and serious approach.

That same number said the government reacted well to the pandemic although 63.5 percent said they didn’t like personal freedoms being limited even to save their lives as some quarantine fatigue set in during the last days of the lockdown.

“Despite the unprecedented nature of the situation, the increased uncertainty, the conflicting scientific evidence and the difficulty of making any predictions about the future, the findings as a whole suggest that we have a very good grasp of the situation and are managing it well,” said the head of the institute, public health professor Efi Simou.

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