Letter from Athens: Maskless Mitsotakis Caught Up in COVID-19 Pandemic Infodemic

December 13, 2020

If prisons used Greece's model of a second quasi-pseudo-half-lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 that didn't work after being in place for a month – extended for at least another month – they'd be like this. 

“Attention all prisoners. You can't leave your cells for any reason except for the following permissible missions: taking a walk, going to the library, having a shower – be careful there – taking a shank out for a test, going to the weight lifting room, seeing the doctor or prison psychologist, getting a snack in the kitchen, or to bring the warden a gift.” 

That's pretty much why it failed in Greece to more quickly reduce the number of cases, deaths, and people in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) that were overwhelmed despite being doubled during the nine-month pandemic's second wave. 

Prime Minister and New Democracy Capitalist leader Kyriakos ‘Mea Culpa’ Mitsotakis admitted he waited too long to bring a second national closing of non-essential businesses even as he and his team of scientific and medical advisors watched the country's second-largest city, Thessaloniki, be swamped with cases. 

Unlike him – he was applauded for bringing an early lockdown in March that lasted 10 weeks and saved lives – he suggested it wasn't his fault but that of the eminent people whose advice he followed, but this time didn't nudge him. 

That smacks of someone knowing they screwed up but didn't want to fully admit it, and then it got worse when – in violation of his own government's health measures – was photographed mountain biking without a mask, next to some fans who wanted their pictures taken with him. 

That gave major opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis ‘Clueless’ Tsipras a howitzer with ammunition to fire at him, winding up Mitsotakis having leftist shrapnel on his face, mixed with egg, and some crow dripping off his lips. 

Now for a second time he had to say he was wrong. “It was a mistake that I accepted to be photographed without a mask. It is not a mistake that I went cycling,” he said. 

The loophole lockdown – it's not really a lockdown when there's traffic jams of people in cars alleging they're on permissible missions – allows them to be out for reasons such as going to supermarkets, banks, pharmacies. 

Also for walking pets and exercise which is the lame excuse that Mitsotakis tried to peddle when it said, “I want to stress that exercising is allowed within your region. But, with hindsight, obviously I would have worn a mask when my fellow-citizens asked to be photographed with me,” he said. 

“I set the bar higher for myself. I have done my own self-criticism … for this incident,” he said, at least getting the apology right but giving himself a privilege others were not allowed. 

There's no report he was fined 300 euros ($363) for not wearing a mask or that he contributed that much to one of the few NGO's still operating that have food banks for people who don't have mountain bikes to go to the supermarket. 

He had been pictured previously – maskless – next to a maskless Archbishop Ieronymos, head of the Church of Greece, who later had to be hospitalized after being found to be infected. This is starting to pile up here. 

There was no social distancing in either event and while the Prime Minister was breaking the rules and not paying for it, some 3,000 others at the same time had to pay 780,000 euros ($944,919) when they were caught, even if they were unemployed or laid off because of the fake lockdown. 

Predictably, SYRIZA – which has no plan to stop the pandemic they want him to stop – pounced on Mitsotakis' faux pas that came when there were 2,000 cases a day and people dying in droves. 

“Blaming the citizens for their stance, while you refuse to follow the necessary measures is not human at all; it is a sign of arrogance and lack of empathy,” said SYRIZA spokesman Nasos Iliopoulos, reported Politico. 

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas of course defended Mitsotakis for violating the rules and had a handy excuse, saying Mitsotakis “is accused of being human,” and that he would “never refuse to talk or (be) photographed” if approached. 

I'm putting that one on my permission slip when I'm out on a mission and decide to take off my mask, although it means someone would want to actually be photographed with me, which hasn't happened since the last police lineup. 

Tsipras took some shots before retreating when New Democracy pointed out he was firing his verbal fusillades from a luxury home on the seaside where he's apparently locked down with satin sheets. 

"It's political hypocrisy for the leader of the opposition. He wants people to see him as the boy from the (blue-collar) neighborhood and not someone living the high life," said Petsas. 

Good one, especially since after the July 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 102 people because Tsipras' government had no disaster plan he took a vacation on a yacht, which he could have sent, along with the Coast Guard and Navy, to rescue people in the seas outside the burning village of Mati. 

At least the people who approached Mitsotakis on the mountain didn't have to say, “who was that masked man?” 


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