CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC: ATTITUDE SHIFTING FROM FEAR TO FRIVOLITY

   We believe that now, ten months after the appearance of the coronavirus, is the right time to conduct sociological studies which will examine the present attitude of society towards the pandemic, i.e., of the human society as a whole and of the individual societal groups of each country. We notice that the societies of Asian countries with autocratic regimes tend to enforce firm restrictive measures which result in the quick confinement of the spreading of the pandemic. The societies of countries with democratic regimes tend to give priority to saving human lives and to a lesser extent to balancing the economy and the professional activities of their citizens, so that the whole economy does not collapse. In theory, our country has followed the framework adopted by democratic states, however, in practice it seems that individual behaviours deviate from the norm.

   It is normal that older people are more afraid during a pandemic, because at an old age it is easier to catch the virus and more difficult for the treatment to be effective. Because older people are more vulnerable, they are more likely to comply with the daily practices proposed by health professionals and the restrictive measures that are enforced by the government. The government decides on the specific measures to be taken after consulting with committees of specialised scientists who study the epidemiological data and make relevant proposals. Older people voluntarily restrict autonomous actions and the fulfillment of personal desires. The opposite is true for younger people who are more impulsive and full of energy. They do not always comply with the restrictive measures, because being young and strong, they know that they are not as vulnerable to the disease. Even if they catch the virus, they may be asymptomatic and not need treatment.

   The challenge which the politicians and health professionals of our country need to face is how to make everyone, but most importantly the younger people, comply with the rules for combating the pandemic. Citizens need to respect not only the preventive measures taken by the state but also the restrictive measures for the spreading of the disease. Since the repression of irresponsible conduct is difficult, if not impossible, the best way for the politicians to promote responsible behaviour is to become role models themselves by exhibiting social responsibility and thus try to persuade the younger generation to act in a more responsible manner. The best education for the society as a whole is the exemplary daily conduct of its leaders. Of course, time and a consistent effort are needed, so that the average citizen will learn to copy the “beacon” model and the daily behaviour of his/her leaders. It will be difficult at the beginning, but once the model is established, extreme autonomous actions will become increasingly rare among young people, who will realise that they need to voluntarily self-impose restrictions to their excessive freedom, so that the most vulnerable societal groups can be protected.

   The requirement to lockdown in our homes during the first stage of the pandemic was applied successfully by the government, because at that time the Greek citizens actually obeyed the authorities due to their fear for the impact of the new and unknown until then coronavirus.  Unfortunately, the lockdown was followed by the lifting of these measures and the reopening of businesses, an act which was necessary for the partial recovery of the economy and the avoidance of a new bankruptcy for our country. After the first wave of the pandemic, younger people thought that the consequences for human health were not as serious as previously thought and that the death rate was actually lower than previously believed. For these reasons our youth thought that they do not need to compromise their freedoms or restrict their autonomy and their personal choices. Recent data has proven that they are wrong. Not following the restrictive measures might mean that younger people who catch the virus are asymptomatic, however, when these asymptomatic people come into contact with older people, they spread the disease to this vulnerable group of people with catastrophic consequences.

      Recent negative developments make us pose the following two questions: in a democratic country like ours, is it an obligation for citizens to impose self-restrictions on the freedom that comes from their extreme autonomous activities? is it an obligation for citizens to make sure that their autonomous activities do not negatively affect the preservation of health and the preservation of life of vulnerable societal groups? Most Greeks agree that the above two requirements should be followed by all citizens. We hope that as time goes by, everyone will realise how catastrophic the results of non-compliance to  the preventive and restrictive measures for the spreading of the disease are. We hope that more and more people will realise that the measures enforced by the government are for the common good and they will be willing to comply.

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