Greece ended its lockdown today, 18th Jan 2021, and the predictable happened, people went shopping. In their thousands.
For those not up to speed with the situation in Greece, the country has been in a (UK Tier 4+ equivalent) lockdown since the 30th of October. That means people only allowed to leave their house for 6 specific reasons specified by the government and all journeys must be recorded in advance via an SMS to the government prior to leaving the house. Alternatively people could fill out a form prior to leaving the house and carry that with them to show the police should they be stopped.
People could go to work as normal, only if their work could not be done from home. All shops have been closed since the 30th of October except supermarkets, all other purchases had to be delivered to the home of the buyer. High schools closed, no hospitality of any sort and no travelling between counties (and countries for that matter).
The result has been a predictable plummeting in the mobility of people in the country with Bloomberg assessing the drop in traffic to be something like 40%. As someone on the ground, the drop in people in the streets and traffic on the roads looked more like 70-80%. Bloomberg has assessed the lockdown in Greece as of January, to be the toughest in the world and for the resulting reduction in travel to also be the biggest drop in the world.
The knock on effect of these measures was massive delays with transport services within the country with people being quoted up to two weeks delivery times for something that is normally delivered next day.
To give some relief, there was a brief, very light, lifting of the lockdown prior to Christmas, from the 14th of December to the 31st. This entailed people being able to collect from shops, but only from outside the shop and only with a prior appointment. 150 Euro fines for anyone caught going to a shop with an appointment.
The effect on COVID19 cases and deaths in the country due to this lifting on restrictions did not move the needle and if anything cases and deaths reduced at an accelerated rate although there was also reduced testing during this period.
However from today there was a much more substantial relaxation of the restrictions. Now people are free to leave their houses for up to two hours to visit shops, without prior appointment, although a text message is still required to be sent or the from to be filled out, prior to leaving the house. Still, a lot can be done in two hours and not having to make appointments in advance gives people massive flexibility, it opens up the possibility of window shopping without fear of being arrested(!).
Customers are permitted into shops for the first time in 11 weeks although each customer must have 25 square meters of floor space to themselves.
And the result?
The result has meant simply massive amounts of traffic on the roads from the first morning. From 70% down from normal levels to only 10% down of normal levels. Today is the first day since October where I have been stuck in a traffic jam.
The official line from the government is “wait and see”, if things go well, schools will be the next thing to reopen and after that bars and restaurants. Proposed timeline is around 2 weeks until schools fully reopen with bars and restaurants 2-3 weeks after that. With what restrictions? It is far to early to say.
My position is that the reopening of shops, be it limited, will have no effect on the #COVID19 in Greece, neither from deaths or case prevalence. Without going into an analysis of what that says about lockdowns, the gradual reopening is super positive news, especially for small business owners who have received no compensation from the government for this present lockdown.
The business development minster summed things up nicely, if business don’t reopen soon, there will be no businesses to save and without businesses there will be no taxes which means no schools and no hospitals. Echoing my thoughts exactly.
Lockdowns are a great idea in theory, unfortunately our society is dependent of production to maintain basic services, until the human race has perfected replicator technology we need to be looking towards containment measures that give a far better return on investment than blanket lockdowns of healthy people.