Symi April Blues

 

Human tourists might be unable to travel but the migratory birds have no such problems.  The barn swallows are nesting in quiet corners of Pedi and every evening we hear the owls calling across the valley.

As 1 May is a big holiday in Greece and falls on a Friday this year, once again a strict vehicle curfew will be in place for that weekend to prevent people leaving the cities to head for country houses and islands.  Effectively the lock down definitely remains in place until at least 4 May for this reason.  We are, however, expecting an announcement, either this evening or tomorrow, outlining the proposed stages for re-opening the country. Starting with easily controllable businesses such as bookshops and hair dressers and, eventually, seasonal hotels.

We have already been told that the most we can hope for is a 3 month tourist season, from 1 July to 30 September, with various restrictions in place concerning which country nationals will be allowed in and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of both the tourists and the locals. This is all being hammered out with the EU as a whole to make a co-ordinated plan.  Proposals including opening up the larger hotels first but reducing the number of rooms occupied as it is easier to impose social distancing in larger premises, replacing buffets with table service, changing bars so that drinkers sit at spaced tables with table service and so on.

It will be interesting to see how the airlines tackle the issues of social distancing, disinfection and hygiene and still keep their planes in the air.  We saw huge changes in the travel industry after September 11 but this is going to be even more momentous.  Even if people like Mike O’Leary of Ryan Air complain about the costs involved and refuse to fly within the limitations unless the state picks up the shortfall, the reality is that airlines are going to have a hard time persuading people to travel on their planes unless they feel safe.  With awareness of the importance of hygiene at an all time high, the average person is more likely to be conscious of just what might be lurking on armrests, tray tables, back rests, upholstery and the like, not to mention plastic bins at security checks, airport seating and so on.  It is not just the recycled air which people have been complaining about for years.  Now the threat is not just catching a cold or flu. Unlike trains, buses and other forms of public transport which are a daily necessity for many people to get to and from work, it is rare for flying to be essential so consumers have the luxury of the last word.

We shall see what tomorrow brings.

Adriana

 

 

Symi Palm Sunday 2020

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Looking across Pedi bay from the marina jetty on the north side.

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Every colour tells a story as this abandoned house in Chorio sheds layers of tinted lime wash.
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Wild chamomile.  The sun brings out the scent and they really do smell like apples.
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Still lots of daisies around to keep the sheep and goats happy.
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The plum trees are the last to flower.
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There are four inscrutable cats in this photo.

A week ago we had a tremendous storm from the south east, driving into Pedi bay and dumping tons of sand, stones and potsherds along the waterfront.  A few days later we had a big slow moving thunderstorm rumble in from the north east and deposit several hours of soaking rain over the island. Since then it has been sunshine all the way.  The temperatures are rising steadily and there is no more rain on the long range forecast.

This year the lambs and kids have a reprieve.  No spit roasts and big family celebrations on Easter Sunday – you can only socialise with the people who live permanently under the same roof so the usual mass gatherings of friends and relations from far and wide are banned.

The lock down on schools, universities, cultural venues, sports and so on has been extended to 10 May.  Although there is some speculation that there will be a tentative opening up of restrictions including some hotels by June this is still very much hypothetical as it depends not just on how Greece gets through Easter and the 1 May holidays but also what happens in other countries.  If you read the article I have linked to above, there certainly aren’t any plans to allow visitors from countries seriously affected by the virus, such as the UK, USA, France, Italy and the usual markets to arrive any time soon.  The indications are that priority will be given to opening up tourism to countries that have handled the virus well and have a low level of infection such as Israel, Cyprus, the Balkan states, Lebanon and some Arabic countries.

Meanwhile, here on Symi, effectively no one can leave unless they have medical reasons to travel to Rhodes such as chemotherapy or dialysis or other urgent on-going treatment. As Rhodes is effectively closed apart from some supermarkets there wouldn’t be much point in going over for a day anyway. There isn’t even anywhere to go for coffee or lunch when one gets there!

Some hotels and seasonal businesses are steadily continuing with their annual maintenance schedules, repainting, repairing and so on, so that when the restrictions are eventually lifted they are ready to roll.  It is fairly low-key, however, as hardware stores and other suppliers are closed and people are working with reduced work crews and whatever materials that they already had in hand at the time of the lock down.  No trips to specialist shops in Rhodes to browse fittings and fixtures.

There is talk of implementing a voucher system for hotels to cope with Easter cancellations so to try to cushion the impact of possibly having to issue a huge number of refunds at once.  There is also a lot of discussion about other ways to help the economy get through this including reducing VAT back to more acceptable levels and shedding some of the other onerous taxes that have been imposed in recent years.  We shall see what happens.

Happy Easter to those of you who are celebrating this weekend.  Next weekend is our turn.