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The Coronavirus Covers Everything

Αssociated Press

Light tracks of passing cars are seen in front of a Christmas installation in Athens, Greece, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

If Athens were ever to be reminiscent of … New York, the time would be now.

The two cities could not be more different: from their weather, images, ways of life, etc. But the shadow of the coronavirus hovers over both of these metropolises.  

Just like in New York, in Athens and Chania – I am now visiting Greece – the coronavirus overshadows everything.

Only the breeze of optimism that blows in America, due to the rapid pace of vaccinations there, has not yet arrived in Greece.

While in the U.S. vaccinations are gaining momentum – about 3 million Americans are vaccinated per day – in Europe, and therefore in Greece, they are much further behind.

Thus, while America currently sees light, Greece is going through a difficult phase.

So, if you plan to be here soon, don’t count on going to your favorite taverna once you land. It is closed.

And don’t be in a rush to go to the seaside and to the ports to watch the sunset and drink an ouzo. Everything is closed.

There are, of course, many restaurants that make home deliveries, even for Lenten food. People are allowed to order take away from the stores themselves - but they must first send an SMS to the number 13033 or 13032 (depending on the reason for the outing) in order to get permission to leave their homes.

Otherwise, people stay at home. No visits from friends and relatives, no sitting at tables with many people, no walks without a purpose. The fear of the insidious coronavirus lurks everywhere.

My wife and I had postponed this visit a few times. Fortunately, the airline did not cause us any problems. We finally decided to travel only after we received the second dose of the vaccine and after a month had passed since then.

Some useful information: to travel to Athens, in addition to the ticket of course, you need:

A Greek passport (do not wait until the last minute to renew it - the demand is very high)

A negative result of a PCR test (not a rapid test) that was taken no more than 72 hours prior to the time of your departure. This test is not necessary for travelers 10 years old and under.

To have filled out the Passenger Locator Form (PLF) - https://travel.gov.gr/ one day before your departure. The code you receive after completing the form will be sent to you which will be needed for check-in and when you arrive in Athens.

Note: Of course, these rules can change at any time so it is advisable to contact your airline before your trip.

Newark Airport was almost empty the day we traveled. Security and control was strict. It was clear that if we did not have one of the aforementioned items, we could not travel.

The plane was about 40% full. Passengers and staff wore masks.

Our layover was in Frankfurt. This airport was almost empty - and the control was much more lenient than it was in Newark.

When we arrived in Athens, some passengers were singled out, for a statistical sampling, and they were tested for COVID-19 via rapid test. That is a correct action that gives you confidence that the country is taking the problem seriously and is taking precautions.

The road to the city was empty. The image given by the city is melancholy, a natural consequence of the quarantines.

It reminds me of New York at the peak of the coronavirus, last year in March and April.

Most Athenians are working from home, as are most of the associates of The National Herald.

The grumblings of the people, like in New York, have begun. The dilemma for the authorities is great. On the one hand, there is the risk of being infected by the coronavirus and on the other, is the risk of economic disaster.

The balances are very delicate. If the ban is lifted prematurely, the number of infections and deaths will immediately explode – and the hospitals are already full.

However, if the opening of the economy is delayed, the risk of financial disaster for companies and their employees increases. All of this comes under the pressure not to lose the tourist season again this year.

We have already entered the period when those who are thinking of going on vacation this summer are making their plans. So the image about the degree of risk is important for tourism.

The tourist, American or not, will feel safe only when Europe, and consequently Greece, greatly speeds up vaccinations.

Based on current vaccine production and distribution, this will take about two more months.

And then everyone will run to rest, to enjoy the sun and the sea.

But again, with some fear of the coronavirus hovering over our heads.