This letter aims to inform comrades around the world about the situation in Greece during the coronavirus pandemic.
The first case of coronavirus was identified on the 26th of February 2020. On 27th February all public festivals of the carnival were cancelled, on 10th of March all schools were closed and on 13th of March all restaurants, bars, etc. On 16th March all shops were closed except for only a few categories related to the provision of food. On 18th March they banned all assemblies of more than 10 people, on 20th March they closed all public parks and since 23th March a total lockdown was forced, meaning that you can only go out for certain purposes by sending a sms or completing a hand-written and signed paper, maximum 2 people at a time. Or else you get a 150 euro fine.
There are multiple scandals on the ways that the government has chosen to deal with the pandemic:
-The health system has already been in a very grim situation with less and less doctors over the years and a severe lack of funding even for its basic operation
-Multiple denouncements from the doctors have been published saying that the hospitals don’t even have the basic masks and gloves for the staff during the pandemic and the government even published official guidelines for the doctors on how to treat patients without having the basic means of protection
-A lot of hospitals’ administration offices have forbidden doctors to talk to the press or publish details about the situation in hospitals
-They put out a public call for volunteers to join the healthcare system while at the same time they did not even complete the process of hiring new doctors
-After the first week, no tests were allowed for the general population because of a lack of test kits. The tests cost 300 euros at private health institutions. A 41-year-old woman died in her home due to respiratory implications without having been allowed to have the test.
-The government announced that it will offer 30 million euros to private health organizations, refused to take free test kits from the universities, and decided to pay double the cost to all those private clinics that provide emergency beds. The government also gave 11 million to a toll company because of low traffic and 11 million euros to the tv channels in order to broadcast the “stay at home” commercial etc.
-At the same time a series of fake news have been identified by people across popular media, that aim to spread fear as “irresponsible citizens” ignore the regulation – they used fake videos, photos, etc
-A lot of heads of the Greek Orthodox church were publicly claiming during the first weeks that you cannot catch the virus during an orthodox church service (despite the practise of serving communion wine from the same spoon). The government did not say anything while at the same time chose to enter a mosque and arrest people.
-40.000 dismissals from work were announced during the first week of the lockdown which are now expected to be more than 150.000
-Denouncements from workers that companies did not provide any health and safety measures to protect their employees
-A working from home pandemic has put a lot of stress on teachers and other professions.
Few weeks before the quarantine, the government decided to create 3 new closed detention centers in three Greek islands against the will of local people who were organized and clashed with the police. A lot of nationalists and fascists had the time to organize themselves during those days. Then Turkey opened the border for refugees to move towards Greece. The Greek government decided to completely close the border, denying any asylum seekers their right to apply for asylum (and the process of asylum seeking has been suspended for a month) and killed at list three people on the border with Turkey although it never admitted it publicly. Hundreds of people were imprisoned under completely inhumane conditions. At the same time, there was a silent support for the fascists organising and beating up NGO workers, banning immigrants to move from and back to the centers and burning at least 3 NGO infrastructures (the one even on 30th March despite the quarantine).
Because of the coronavirus they have now closed all detention centers, basically sentencing those people to fight the pandemic alone with no health service provision. On 31st March, the first coronavirus case was identified in the detention center of Ritsona where 2600 people have been kept under total lockdown since then. Hunger strikes have started in the centers of Paranesti (3th April) and Moria (8th April) against the unhuman conditions of their imprisonment.
Until the very last days, before the first ban of 10 people gathering there were still public demonstrations mostly against the racist attack of Greek government and fascists against migrants on the border with Turkey. Generally, a lot less people were on the streets compared to just two weeks before, showing that there was a social consensus on the need to stay at home even from the first days. We recognized the need to protect ourselves and each other but still tried to go outside for the basics: to support each other and struggle against repression, to try to maintain and strengthen our networks. There is also a wide social public criticism against those who want to be outside of their homes and the media and government are supporting this criticism with fake news and rhetoric about individual responsibility. A widespread ageism against old people who are walking outside is also rising. We are also exploring digital ways that can support our communication and spread the information about those who are in need.
Despite this dystopian situation, a series of brave struggles are already taking place:
-Students who stay in public university dormitories were asked to leave their rooms and go back to their homes against any health provision strategy – in an attempt to empty the universities. The students have organized themselves and have in most cases already won their right to stay, their right to school restaurants etc.
-300 people working at the airport in Athens were fired through an SMS message and have already organized a public demonstration against their dismissal.
-The union of doctors working at hospitals has organized demonstrations on 7th April against their tragic working conditions and the lack of funding in hospitals and the police tried to disrupt the demonstration in a hospital in Athens for “safety” reasons
-Local networks for support are being set up in a lot of places.
-A difficult struggle to support the immigrants is also on its way, through the organization in local neighborhoods and the creation of networks of communication with people in the camps.