For years, Greece has been seen as one of the European Union’s most troubled members, weighed down by a financial crisis, corruption and political instability. But in the coronavirus pandemic, the country has emerged as a welcome surprise: Its outbreak appears to be far more limited than what was expected.
As the virus spread across Europe, many Greeks feared the worst: They would be the next Italy or Spain.
After all, the country’s health care system had been weakened by a decade-long financial crisis. And Greece has one of the oldest populations in the EU, second only to Italy, leaving it more vulnerable to the disease.
Download the new Independent Premium app
Sharing the full story, not just the headlinesDownload now
But the number of reported deaths and people in intensive care because of the virus in Greece has remained a tiny fraction of what they are in many other European nations.
Now, a country that has grown used to being seen as a problem child in the EU is celebrating its government’s response and looking forward to reopening its economy.
“Greece has defied the odds,” said Kevin Featherstone, director of the Hellenic Observatory at the London School of Economics.
Because Greece has tested a very small percentage of its population, it is impossible to know how extensively the virus has spread in the country. But its total deaths have been low — 138 in a population of about 10.7 million — a surprise to experts, especially given the elderly population. And a big relief.
On Tuesday, just over a month after the government imposed a lockdown, the prime minister announced a time frame for gradually easing restrictions and getting the country back on its feet.
Only 69,833 people have been tested for the virus in Greece, but experts agree that the country’s decision to quickly enforce social distancing measures and fortify its ailing health care system helped curb the outbreak.
So did a willingness from most Greeks to comply with the orders.
No hype, just the advice and analysis you need