Letter From Athens: COVID-19 Resurge Leaves Mitsotakis Hobson’s Choice

October 4, 2020

Applauded for imposing an early lockdown of non-essential businesses in March that held down the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis now finds himself with a dilemma that can't really be solved. 

His choices as a second wave of the Coronavirus is soaring are really none: bring a second lockdown to save lives or not to save a sinking economy, otherwise more businesses will close and more people will be out of work. 

As Woody Allen's 1979 speech to graduates put it: “More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” 

It would be funny if it weren't so tragic because Greece will likely surpass 18,000 cases and 400 deaths, averaging more than 300 cases a day since August, mostly because too many people defied health measures aimed at protecting them. 

They wouldn't wear masks – some believing those are political tools as part of a hoax around COVID-19 to control their minds, which doesn't seem to be working – nor will they keep a safe social distance of at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart as required. 

The young, who always believe they are invincible (you could ask James Dean and Jim Morrison how that worked out but they're not around to tell you) have spiked cases by partying drunk in public squares after night clubs close at midnight, buying beer and liquor at public kiosks before they, too, were ordered to close at that time. 

That won't work, of course, because they'll stock up at package stores, called kavas in Greece, and break out the ice and coolers while police have been told to stand by and watch them party hardy and spread the disease among them. 

What's Mitsotakis to do? Order the cops to sweep through and draw the wrath of the former ruling Looney Left SYRIZA, now rebranded as SYRIZA Regressive Alliance, who blame him for the economic effect of the first lockdown? 

Shameless SYRIZA leader Alexis ‘Color Me Red’ Tsipras, under whose regime 103 people died in 2018 fires because his administration was so incompetent, essentially blamed Mitsotakis and New Democracy for everything except going to Wuhan, China and bringing back some bat soup to serve people. 

After his government broke anti-austerity vows and cut public health budgets so much you couldn't get toilet paper or paper towels at public hospitals, Tsipras went to Evangelismos Hospital in Athens, the city's finest municipal hospital, to stand outside and spoke of a “critical state” of the health care sector he had decimated. 

The rebel who doesn't wear a tie but wears a sport coat said that, "it is obvious that the Health System is under much greater pressure right now compared to the first phase of the pandemic.” No s–t, Sherlock. 

He falsely said the government had not beefed up the hospitals – it did, doubling the number of ventilators and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds with the help of the Diaspora and some philanthropists, absent oligarchs and shipping tycoons who are as heartless as he is conscienceless. 

"If there is something we can learn from the pandemic, it is to take advantage of it to support the National Health System," he said, something he didn't do when there wasn't a pandemic and had as a deputy health minister a chain smoking surgeon. 

Mitsotakis isn't the most exciting guy at the party but he's steady and doesn't go shooting his mouth off as does Tsipras, who doesn't know when to shut up, his sloganeering droning better than Sominex at putting you to sleep. 

Tsipras had his chance to bring his vaunted revolution but rolled over for the country's lenders and international bankers and crushed his beloved workers, pensioners, and the poor with more crushing austerity measures he swore to reject but imposed. 

Unlike Mitsotakis, blocked in by COVID-19, which leaves him essentially nowhere to turn – the dreaded Hobson's Choice of taking what is available or nothing at all – because a second lockdown would save lives but cripple the economy, and not locking down would likely see more people die and suffer. 

What would Tsipras do? Spout some tired, hackneyed trite slogan? If he had any principles he would support any effort protecting people, but he's shown he has Trumpian disregard for human life – just ask people in the seaside village of Mati who were left to burn, including two nine-year-old twin girls. He had choices. 

The only wiggle room left for Mitsotakis is to enforce the measures instead of his failed entreaties for people to behave responsibly because they won't and appealing to them hasn't worked. 

Police have been conducting scores of thousands of inspections but there are few reports of people being fined 150 euros ($175) as allowed, nor 10,000 euro ($11,666) fines on defiant businesses allowed to remain open and spread the virus. 

You have to hit people where they live so they won't die, so if Mitsotakis doesn't want to bring a second lockdown the only option is enforcement or this plague is going to consume Greece as it has the United States under President Psycho. 

So take Yogi Berra's advice. If you come to a fork in the road, take it. 


The most frequent question I have been getting since I began researching Greek-owned diner restaurants in America is whether they have a future.

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