Sigh, just when Greeks shocked the world by setting aside their notorious flair for disobedience and complied with a lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, they have reverted to what they mostly are, defying health protocols to contain it.
And they are getting away with it, as Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis can't reimpose the stay-at-home order because no one would obey, and while the virus is still with us, it hasn't come back with a vengeance despite signs of public gatherings.
This is more than just about following health measures that include wearing masks where required, gloves too as needed, keeping social distance and avoiding mass crowds that tend to breed the disease like a flame next to gasoline.
It's about an ingrained mentality that saw at least seven beach bars totally flaunt the requirements and host wild parties with hundreds of people bellying up for a drink despite rules forbidding it. I’ll have a COVID-19, shaken really, really, really well.
Two of them, including one in Athens and another on Mykonos where every year inspectors go through a charade of fining tax cheating businesses and restaurants and clubs and bars and tavernas a fraction of what they make by not paying taxes, were fined 20,000 euros ($22,476.60.)
Eh, this is Greece, so Kathimerini indicated they could appeal and likely stay open until their case is heard sometime in the autumn or winter, long after the summer season, allowing them to defy the rules that other suckers follow.
With open defiance growing over health protocols imposed after the lifting of the lockdown, five more Greek nightclubs in the capital were ordered shut after hosting parties although they could stay open, ofcourse, under Herd Impunity.
That came after raids by units of the Hellenic Police and the Development Ministry’s General Secretariat for Trade and Consumer Protection found the businesses violated hygiene protocols by allowing excessive overcrowding.
The businesses, located in the port city of Piraeus and the Kerameikos and Gazi districts of central Athens, were fined a total of 15,000 euros ($16,883) although the government said fines would be 20,000 euros ($22,511) for each establishment breaking the rules.
Health officials warned that the overcrowding continuing to be allowed could lead to a resurgence of the virus but enforcement has been almost non-existent with people refusing to wear masks and gloves in businesses or clubs and restaurants.
In a piece in Kathimerini, Maria Katakana wrote,”For all those beach bars across Greece that have been violating the ban on overcrowding, with their patrons reveling in a carefree, holiday mood, the imposition of controls to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is proving to be extremely difficult and the imposition of penalties and fines is so complicated that it ends up almost impossible to do so.
“This is not only happening on the cosmopolitan island of Mykonos, the playground of the rich and famous, but also at family-friendly beach bars in Alimos on the southern coast of Attica, while the people who crowd beaches, public squares and so on are just as responsible too,” she added.
“Alas, illegality follows the path of legality, as those who are fined ca n also file an objection against the decision. The objection 'will' be heard and the company 'will' close when there is a ruling – if there is one. And this could take place in November or December – that is after the summer season has ended,” she added.
“This pattern whereby penalties lose their sting and are essentially not enforced is nothing new in Greece and is old as Greek bureaucracy itself,” she wrote. Now why can’t I write stuff like that?
How does this happen?
Simple answer really. It’s what happens when you allow people to double park on the wrong side of the street and on sidewalks, close off handicap ramps (where you can find them,) let them argue openly with police officers in traffic stops, roar through red lights, speed with impunity, cheat on taxes (especially the rich who have a lifetime blanket carte blanche from prosecution for anything.)
It’s what happens when people are allowed to violate the alleged social distance requirement of being 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) apart, not wear masks where required (check out the supermarket workers at the deli counter with a mask covering their mouth, but not nose and hope they don’t sneeze on your salami.)
It’s what happens when tax inspectors don’t close taverns and nightclubs and bars who cheat on taxes every year and get away with it because they can, and when governments tax the hell out of the middle class but not the rich, who get away with it.
From Santorini, Mitsotakis told reporters Greece is open to tourists again and went through the pretense that hotels and other businesses catering to them would have to follow strict hygiene protocols, leading hotel managers, ferry boat operators and sex workers to say it can’t happen. Which is how it happens.
"You can sit on a veranda with this wonderful view," he said as the sun set over the caldera of the volcanic island that is perhaps the world’s most popular, and overcrowded. "You can have your nice Assyrtiko wine, enjoy the beach, but we don't want you crowded in a beach bar." But it happens.