MYKONOS — Unable or unwilling to stop wild partying on Mykonos, the island known as a kind of hedonist heaven, Greece's New Democracy government – lauded for a lockdown holding down the number of COVID-19 cases – is seeing them spike again.
The British newspaper The Sun noted that the jumping cases in Greece, which had one of the world's best records, is ironically making the United Kingdom – among the hardest-hit in the world – reconsider whether it's safe for tourists to visit.
Mykonos has long had a reputation of young women dancing in bikinis on tabletops and restaurants and bars flouting tax regulations and largely getting away with it, but now defiance of health protocols could make it the epicenter of a surge, the paper said.
Besides scenes of people crowded together at bars, there have been reports of giant parties in private villas with no explanation why the authorities haven't, as the island's officials requested, sent squads of police to enforce the regulations.
The paper said the parties, overcrowding and gatherings” are feared to have become super-spreader events,” although residents and tourists are said to be subject to spot tests from health officials.
Greek authorities temporarily closed down Alemagou, one of Mykonos’ most popular beach bars, after seven staff members tested positive for the virus and more than 80 people were told to self-quarantine with no report how that could be enforced.
It was the second time the bar has been closed during the pandemic, shut for 60 days n June and the owners fined 20,000 euros ($23,577.70) but reopening again, indicating it's so profitable even big fines won't stop disobedience, as they don't tax cheating.
There was no report how long the bar would be closed this time, if more fines were issued or why it wasn't confiscated. Mykonos bars and resorts have been known to charge as much as 1,000 euros ($1178.88) a bottle.
Mayor Konstantinos Kostas had requested health teams visited the island amid mounting concern over safety violations at bars and nightclubs, the report said as the government didn't respond.
"The protection of public health is not only a duty but is the necessary precondition for maintaining the good image of the country and of the island internationally," he said, but Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is trying to balance the need to save lives against saving an economy brought down hard by the pandemic.
As of Aug. 7, there were 5,270 cases and 210 deaths, the number of cases jumping almost 150 a day after dropping rapidly before people in the country largely began ignoring requirements to wear face masks in gathering spots and to stay a safe social distance of at least 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) apart.
Despite the growing dangers, the overcrowding is ongoing, the paper said, with nightclubs packed with people and the parties and raves not being stopped, local officials saying they're overwhelmed.
Even a visit by Citizens Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis couldn't stop the parties and defiance as he ordered increased inspections of bars and nightclubs after a party in a villa drew more than 200 people.
Police said they will step up an alleged crackdown especially after cases are rising on other islands as well, places that were desperate for tourists with the summer season already heading toward a wind down after disappointing numbers of arrivals.
The Ionian isles of Corfu, Lefkada, Zakynthos and Kefalonia – where the British, especially hooligans known for violence, are the main tourist market, only recently allowed to enter after Greece lifted a ban on them.
Cases have also been recorded on Crete, Lesvos, Rhodes, Chios and Evia and the island of Poros near Athens was put in a virtual lockdown after 30 cases were found there, leading to speculation of shutdowns coming for other islands and areas.
The British are keen to get to Greece after Spain, which had been attracting more of them, closed to tourism after cases rose there again and the cheap airlines EasyJet and Ryanair are offering bargain basement prices to pack their planes.
While the majority of new cases in Greece have been located in Thessaloniki, 12 of them have been from tourists entering the country, and more have been seen in Greeks returning from visiting Balkan countries whose residents are barred from Greece.
Greece’s top scientific adviser, Professor Sotiris Tsiodras said: "There must be great vigilance to a possible increase. The situation could quickly get out of hand. It needs vigilance and attention by all."
On Poros, the Union of Police Officers of Piraeus slammed Mayor Yiannis Dimitriadis who blamed them for not doing their jobs to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, officers pointing their fingers at him instead.
“The objections and statements of the Mayor of Poros that there were shortcoming and irregularities on the part of the local police and the staff serving there, regarding the use of a masks, overcrowding etc, raises questions,” the union said in a statement.
“It seems that the honorable mayor, in order to artificially evade his own responsibilities, chooses to impose responsibilities on the few police officers struggling on all fronts,” it added.