Undoubtedly the year 2020 is one of those years that no one will ever forget as it was defined by a pandemic that shifted many paradigms politically and socially. Covid-19 has unfortunately changed daily lives all over the world. In Greece, where the sun shines almost 365 days out of the year it may be difficult sometimes to distinguish between the seasons of the year. That is not the case this year as the seasons have without a doubt been broken down into winter, lockdown 1, summer, lockdown 2. While many across the world praised
after the first lockdown on taking very strict measures by prohibiting unnecessary movement outside people’s homes in early February, Greece is now struggling to regain control of the virus that has now claimed the lives of 1000 people and has reached full capacity of ICU wards nationwide.
Both largest cities in Greece, Thessaloniki, and Athens resemble ghost towns with the strictest of curfews between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. having gone into effect nationwide. As the Covid-19 numbers rise daily, most workers have been sent home to telework and all schools have closed, and virtual learning has resumed. While movement outside residents’ homes requires an SMS text message sent to 13033 to obtain permission to do so, using one of the six codes explained below or having in their possession will traveling outside, the official documents available on forma.gov.gr filled out explaining the purpose of having to leave their house. The breakdown of the codes are as follows:
1 – Visit to a Pharmacy or doctor’s appointment that has been pre-approved and scheduled. (This code is in effect for curfew hours as well)
2 –For essential supplies from Supermarkets, mini markets that cannot be delivered (this code is restricted during curfew)
3 – Visit to a Bank for transactions that can not be completed online (this code is restricted during curfew)
4 – Visit to a person or persons needing assistance or to accompany children to schools that have been granted permission to stay open or spouses to work (this code is restricted during curfew)
5 – To attend a funeral (in abiding by the appropriate limited attendance) and in the cases of travel for divorced couples who share custody of children (this code is restricted during curfew)
6 – Outdoor physical exercise for up to two persons while observing the social distancing of 1,5 meters (restricted however during curfew) or walking a pet (allowed during curfew for a short walk close to residence)
While for foreigners the headache seems to be that they cannot send the SMS text to 13033 through their roaming international carriers and have been instructed to purchase a prepaid SIM card. It has also been suggested they download the Google Play Application and try and send their SMS via the App but for many, it is still a problematic issue. It is, however, acceptable and probably the best option in such cases or in any case that seems unclear under which category it may fall, that the person wishing to travel outside their home to have a handwritten note, including their name, address and time they have left for movement outside and a short description of the purpose, along with their ID, so as to avoid the 300 Euro fine if stopped by any police officials.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urges everyone to abide by the restrictions until a decline in the number of daily cases begins to be reported so that the lockdown does not have to be extended past November. Although with each passing day the hope that everyone will return to some normalcy and that retail stores, bars, and restaurants will open in time for the Christmas holiday season in order to boost the economy is dwindling.
In a country rich in traditions and for a people whose culture is centered around the celebration of many national and religious holidays, this has been an extremely difficult and uncanny year. Greece was one of the first countries in Europe, heeding the warning signs unlike her Southern European counterparts and began canceling events such as the Carnival Weekend, ushering in the period of Lent in February. And all through Lent and during the Easter season enforced strict restrictions on attending religious services. Easter which is the biggest celebration in Greece was almost canceled and families were limited on how many can gather to roast their lamb and feast together. All the Spring season marked by the strictest of lockdowns. Then the season changed, and summer brought warmer temperatures and the hopes of enjoying the holiday months.
Even though many of the festivities dear to Greeks celebrating various religious namesakes in almost every village in Greece were revoked, some ventured to the islands, while others chose to spend holidays in driving distance of their homes. However, with the re-opening of the country’s borders to tourists outside of Greece came the daily threat of an increase in Covid-19 cases. So upon the return to the norm after the summer holidays and with the increase in Covid-19 testing to ensure the safety of their return to their routines, there was a surge in records amongst the asymptomatic carriers of the virus, ushering in not your usual Autumn season but the second lockdown this year in Greece. And just as the national celebration of Greek Independence Day on March 25 was muted and parade-less in the first lockdown, so was the national celebration of “OXI” Day on October 28 in the second lockdown this year. As with the observation of May 1, canceled in the first lockdown, so it seems will be the observation of the Athens Polytechnic Uprising on November 17, both being very important anniversaries in Greek history and usually commemorated with marches through the streets of all major cities of Greece. Police again will be on strict guard of rioting and gatherings all over the country enforcing the law with harsher fines. Finally, as everyone around the world longs to say goodbye to the year 2020, and with the Christmas Holiday approaching with heavy unrest and uncertainty that the second lockdown will not be lifted in time, any Greek is left to half humorously wonder was every coin in every 2020 “Vasilopita” (New Year’s Bread) tainted with bad instead of good luck.