Zakynthos, the island that is full of about 2 million olive trees and which has around 45,000 inhabitants. After months of olive picking, the first week of March, we unfortunately also had to deal with the coronavirus.
What seemed so far away from us suddenly became a reality here. The source of the infection was a 66-year-old man who recently returned from his vacation from Israel. The people who travelled by bus with this man were also infected with the virus. From Zakynthos 4 became infected. I must say, looking back after that crucial first week of the contamination here on the island, I am extremely proud of the strict and quick approach of the Greeks here. Not, “we will deal with it later,” or “we will examine the situation over the next few days,” but WHAM! The day after it was known, immediate action! Urgent measures were taken quickly. The four affected persons were immediately quarantined under supervision. The schools, museums, sports clubs, fitness centres, theatres, the cinema, all closed for the next two weeks. Organized excursions were also strictly prohibited.
We can now report that, after the two weeks of home quarantine, the four who were infected from Zakynthos are doing well! They had mild symptoms and are feeling well even now. No other infections have been reported here since, and we hope to keep it that way with all of us working together. Now at the end of March, other measures have since been added. Everything is closed, except supermarkets with adjusted operating hours, pharmacies, bakers, banks also have issued measures, petrol stations, and the postal service. The ferries are still going, but with an adjusted itinerary. Groups of people together, are strictly forbidden. There are huge fines as punishment! This is how the situation is here at the moment. The Greeks themselves now realize that the virus is serious, and if we want to prevent further infections we have to work for it. Everywhere there are bottles of antiseptic, people wearing gloves and mouth masks. Greeks had a hard time, the kissing and cuddling as a greeting is deeply embedded in the culture. But now people are increasingly talking to each other and distancing themselves, no matter how difficult.
I notice that many Greeks are afraid here. So out of fear they stay at home too. There has been a week when we saw panic buyers. Enough toilet rolls still on the island, but the milk and the dettol hand soap bottles were sold out. The elderly stay at home, they do not go outside. Family brings them food and drinks. Everyone wishes each other health, and warn each other, to be careful.
“Staying healthy is now priority number 1!!”
We are trying to get the best out of it right now. Here and there humour is used about the nasty situation. It is also necessary! I try to stay positive even though I am very concerned. I also see beautiful things happen. Many friends who have a family with children spend a lot of time together and do fun things together. Play games indoors, or go in the garden and take care of the chickens and rabbits. Friends who are sporty and are members of a sports club now do classes virtually on the computer or on the phone. The purpose is to keep going and keep in touch with each other. My coffee addicted young Greek friends, who no longer get cappuccinos or espresso’s in plastic cups, they now make old fashioned coffee by hand, in a BRIKI. Cheaper and more environmentally conscious.
Zakynthos is very concerned with the environment and nature. Volunteer groups went out together to clean the beaches and organized outings with the Greek children at the schools to clear up nature from trash. That is currently not possible. However, many individual actions are being taken to make Zakynthos even more beautiful and cleaner. For example, there are people who artistically paint a garbage can or electrical cabinet in empty streets.
We cannot do much more than wait and see at the moment. Every day is a new day. The weather is now blissful here. The sun is shining, it is pleasantly warm. Spring has really arrived. This morning, after a night of worry … I sit on my veranda with a coffee, I see the sun rise and think, how special it is that despite what happens to people, nature does not care … I hear the birds chirping, watch the wild flowers rise and smell the herbs, you will experience Zakynthos with all your senses. I give my dog its wanted kibble and give my baby goat a morning hug. Moments later, the two are happily hopping around among the olive trees. Zakynthos and its nature remain special …
A message I would like to share from all of us here is: Dear people, please do not forget Greece, do not cancel your holiday but convert the holiday to a later date if possible. Hopefully this will be over for all of us soon. Strength to everyone.
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