We are approaching the one year-mark since COVID-19 visited itself upon us. It has wreaked havoc, hell and death upon so many. I have lost over 30 friends and close colleagues in Russia. The toll on my native country of the United States is unspeakable, well over half a million deaths and still climbing. Greece, where I now reside, has shown itself to be what we would expect of this great and wise nation – a haven for good sense and the proper respect of life. If I have heard it said here once, I have heard it dozens of times: “No amount of money is worth the loss of human life.” Period. That, to me, is Greece. None of that nonsense about “freedom,” whether personal or philosophical, “I can’t do it,” “I refuse to do it,” “what about the economy?” and cetera. Greece has had its struggles with the evil plague – it was once in very good standing at 83rd in the list of nations suffering from the virus, although it is now back up to 63rd. Still, in all it has done a remarkable job of defending human life.
That is even more obvious in my local place of residence, Chania, Crete. We have largely lived under various versions of lockdown since March 15, 2020. We have currently been in relatively strict lockdown since mid-November, and I don’t see a letup coming. We must send a text message to a government office, asking permission to leave our homes even for the most basic of chores (grocery shopping, visiting doctors, going to the bank, etc.). We receive permission in the form of a text reply which gives us a two-hour window in which to be out. The vast majority of “non-essential” businesses are closed. It has been horrible for the economy (although the Greek government has done an admirable job supporting its citizens – see “How to protect jobs during Covid-19: Lessons from the Greek experience“), and it is tough to walk around the town and see everything closed and boarded up. The other side of that is that the greatest dangers of COVID-19 have pretty much bypassed Crete. Only recently, at the tail end of January, did a surge of 50 new illnesses hit the city of Agios Nikolaos in East Crete. And two or three days ago we were told that the virus was spiking in Rethymno, just 68 kilometers to our east. This is unprecedented. In Chania we routinely hear about new cases in the single digits, sometimes dropping to zero for a week or two, while the illness here rarely leads to deaths.
Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to come by hard statistics that would reflect Crete’s experience with the virus. I do know that as of last week, 3,300 vaccines had been administered to residents of Crete. I frequently spend expanded periods of time on the internet trying to chase down a real picture of the situation, and I have yet to find a single source of comprehensive information. If you know of such a source or sources, I would be extremely grateful if you would share it/them with me.
So that’s the general background. The future picture is muddy indeed. I have seen predictions that the government hopes that the tourist trade will be back to something close to normal by late summer in 2021, I don’t see how that is going to work. A Google map of COVID-19 Greece shows how the nation almost miraculously avoided serious problems until the Sept-Oct. period when instances of illness and death spiked radically. The reason? Tourists from selected “safe” countries were allowed into Greece in July-Aug. As such, I would hope that, as difficult as it is financially, the Greek government will continue to put the lives of its residents ahead of financial gain.
Finally, what does this mean for my hometown of Chania right now? My wife and I sent off our text messages yesterday requesting permission to go for a walk, then we headed out to see the city we so rarely have enjoyed properly for the last year. The good news is that it was as beautiful as ever. There were quite a few people out walking, drinking in the fabulous sights. I naturally had my trusty camera with me – I wouldn’t think of going out without it – and below you’ll find a few of the images I captured – Chania in the time of the plague…
Copyright © 2021 by John Freedman. Should you wish to copy, repost or reuse anything from this blog (the photos included), please ask. I have never said no to this day. But, boy, does it make me mad when I see people publishing my work on their blogs/pages as if it were their own!