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Athens diary: anti-vax, non-facts and positive vibes as Greeks ring in the new year


After I visited Athens over the vacations in 2020, I felt as if I had been in a dictatorship, with strict night curfews and obligatory textual content messages to be despatched to a authorities company earlier than I may enterprise outdoor. Within the hours after the curfew descended, it was so quiet it appeared as if the streets had been laid with straw.

This time, we had been allowed to maneuver freely, so long as we had been capable of present proof of vaccination and ID earlier than coming into indoor areas corresponding to eating places and bars. In England, there have by no means been Covid curfews, nor do it’s important to clarify to the authorities why you’re leaving your own home, for which I’m grateful. Taking the Tube day-after-day, I usually sat subsequent to folks with out masks. However in Athens a good friend was fined €300 for strolling in Syntagma Sq. with out one.

Each time I drove to the town centre, there have been anti-vaxxers protesting towards Invoice Gates, towards massive capitalism, towards the supposed grasp plan to get rid of a big portion of the human race by means of a faux pandemic, ostensibly the best cover-up in recorded historical past. It jogged my memory of an indication I as soon as noticed exterior a Baptist church in Alabama — “Whoever is praying for rain, please cease”.

The anti-vaxxers are mockingly recognized in Greece because the “sprayed”, as they usually belong to conspiracy idea teams claiming that authorities forces are spraying us from a excessive altitude as a way to impair our cognitive schools. In consequence, we don’t problem authority and inject ourselves with doubtful vaccines.

Though the Orthodox church helps vaccination, numerous monks, largely in northern Greece, have opposed the jab, and lots of of their parishioners have died. In keeping with the newest figures, the speed of full vaccination in Greece is 66 per cent; the federal government ban on unvaccinated folks coming into indoor public areas, introduced in November, appears to have had little impact. Omicron is spiking, with coronavirus instances working at some 35,000 a day.


In mid-December the loss of life of Giorgos Tragas, an unvaccinated movie star commentator and head of the political motion Free Individuals, prompted a sensation. The Greek journalist, who died of problems of Covid-19, was a firebrand of the anti-vaccination motion. Damning on authorities mandates and lockdown measures, Tragas’s polemic towards rules had made him an influential, albeit controversial voice.

The populist motion in Greece has its roots in a macho tradition that validates virility and male id by rejecting authority. In different phrases, when you do precisely as you’re informed, you’re a doormat. In keeping with an previous Greek saying, a girl ought to by no means contact a lighter, a doorknob or a bottle; a person should gentle her cigarettes, open doorways and pour the wine.

The world is split into details and non-facts. Till a couple of centuries in the past, folks believed that tides existed simply to assist the ships are available, that spirits may faucet into electrical currents. It seems that progress is available in a zigzag, not in a straight line.

My favorite story on empirical proof is about an early assembly of the Royal Society in London, allegedly attended by the king, relating to a bowl of water that scientists on the time assumed weighed the identical with a goldfish in it because it did with out. When a steadiness was introduced, the experiment was carried out. The bowl was placed on the steadiness, then the fish was added. Unsurprisingly, the bowl’s weight elevated by precisely the burden of the fish.


You may’t simply stroll right into a restaurant any extra, I mirrored, as I fumbled with my NHS app to get inside a well-known fish place. I couldn’t assist pondering of Yuval Noah Harari’s grim predictions about knowledge coming to rule all points of our lives.

However there are nonetheless traditions in Greece untouched by the technological revolution. I do know individuals who flip their empty espresso cups the other way up on a saucer to have their future learn by an aunt (the espresso dregs depart imprints and shapes which can be interpreted); and mates of mine will typically pay €50 to go to a fortune teller in a shabby a part of city to seek out out whether or not they may get a promotion at work or what’s going to occur with the boys they want.

And on January 1, a cake devoted to St Basil is reduce and divided amongst all members of every household to see who will win the fortunate allure, normally a €2 coin (10 drachma earlier than 2001) wrapped in tin foil and positioned in a slit on the backside of the cake so it’s not seen. Whoever finds it of their piece is the signified recipient of excellent luck for the yr forward.


On New Yr’s Eve, I had dinner with mates at one of many oldest Athenian eating places, the place I as soon as had my wedding ceremony celebration. There have been six of us at a spherical desk, the utmost quantity allowed by authorities rules. My good friend complained that her nostrils had been sore from extreme testing. Her 22-year-old daughter was able to go to an unlawful gathering.

Earlier than leaving, she took out her cellphone to point out me an invitation for an irreverent celebration known as “Optimistic Vibes”, which you might attend solely with a optimistic PCR check taken inside the final 24 hours. The placement was undisclosed and there was a posh course of to undergo to seek out out the deal with, because the high-quality for personal events begins at €50,000. To not point out that anybody with Covid should self-isolate.

In between programs and bottles of purple wine, the speak was in regards to the trials of two girls, Ghislaine Maxwell and Elizabeth Holmes. I’d simply rewatched 12 Indignant Males (1957), most likely one of the best movie illustration of the a part of the US structure that guarantees defendants a good trial and the presumption of innocence. If the world is split into details and non-facts, it is a movie in regards to the significance of cheap doubt.

With dessert, an e-mail pinged on my cellphone. It was a lab notification that the PCR check I had taken that morning proved I didn’t have Covid-19. This meant I may fly house to London. I couldn’t verify in until I had uploaded a detrimental PCR check outcome and a passenger locator type, and I couldn’t add the latter until I had a affirmation quantity for a pre-paid Day 2 check to be taken on arrival. The world as we knew it’s gone.

“Keep detrimental” was the textual content that circulated as the brand new yr was about to reach. There was no music allowed within the restaurant, as half of the present measures, however everybody was toasting to the tip of the pandemic, to life resuming at full velocity. A couple of minutes after midnight, my son known as to say that in his grandmother’s home the cake has simply been reduce and the coin was present in my slice. Apparently, that is my yr.

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