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Ultimately, Managing the Virus is a Matter of Leadership

How long will this situation last?

When will our lives return to normalcy?

These are the most pressing questions I receive from readers and friends.

I would very much like to be able to answer those questions.

But no one, from what I read and from those I talk to, seem to know the answers.

This is because there is no evidence we can rely on to draw a conclusion.

What we can say now is that the stage of the crisis in each country and the effectiveness of its coronavirus response depends on the promptness of the response and on the thoroughness of the measures taken by the Authorities. That is, it depends on the leadership of each country.

Take America and Greece as examples:

The U.S. government has wasted precious time. It did so out of fear that if it acted, it would affect the President’s self-perceived strong record of his administration, the economy and the stock market.

So, instead of taking action based on information coming from China, he depreciated the coronavirus.

Some examples: On January 22, in an interview with CNBC, the President, who was in Davos, was asked if we should worry about a pandemic at that time. Trump said: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

On January 24, he sent out a tweet saying, “it will all work out well.”

At that time, he did take a positive step, however, forbidding most foreigners who visited China from visiting the United States.

But Trump spent the first weeks of March trying to convince people that the virus would disappear, saying, “there’s a theory that, in April, when it gets warm…It’s going to disappear. One day – it’s like a miracle – it will disappear.”

Later, he added another dimension to his explanations, this time about the fall of the Stock Exchange: he began accusing others: Democrats, CNN, MSNBC, etc., of deliberately causing panic in the markets.

In early March, he was still claiming that coronavirus is a lesser threat than the flu.

In addition, he said that anyone who wanted to take the test could do so. A statement that didn’t hold water.

And he kept playing his violin as the virus burned its way from China to Rome to America right through to his speech to the Nation from the Oval Office, where he consistently presented a rosy scenario and congratulated his government on “the great work” it was doing.

Finally, in mid-March, the President changed his tune and acknowledged that the problem is very serious.

And so the federal government started moving to tackle the virus.

However, one of Trump’s strongest qualities, his leadership skills, has suffered a potentially irreparable blow.

On the other hand, take the case of Greece, and in particular, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

He faced both of the crises that erupted in Greece during his first few months in power in the best way possible.

The first, of course, was the refugee crisis.

The measures he took forced Erdogan to back down.

Indeed, yesterday, the Turkish President closed his border with Greece (and Bulgaria), ostensibly only because of the virus.

With the second major crisis, the coronavirus, Mitsotakis was one of the first EU leaders to act decisively and forcefully. Since the beginning of the crisis, he has taken matters into his own hands, relying on his staff, but also listening to other experts outside the government, and guided the country in the right direction.

So today, Greece may be proud to have acted even before America, but also before France and Great Britain and many other countries in dealing with this crisis.

The confidence of the Greeks in the Prime Minister’s leadership on these issues is very high. His measures are largely being observed by the Greek people and so he has gained some time as we hope for a breakthrough in vaccines and treatments.

This does not mean that the situation will not get any worse. For example, it is doubtful whether hospitals will be able to withstand the number of patients who will be coming to them for help in the next phase of this crisis.

But Mitsotakis has made the right decisions based on the data at his disposal.

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