Athens has been given a well-deserved pat on the back from the World Health Organization over its model handling of the pandemic.
In a lengthy article on their website, dated August 31, WHO applauds the significant efforts of the City of Athens to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the capital through decisive early action - and for taking steps to protect vulnerable groups of the population by providing access to healthcare, food, masks, social support and other essential supplies.
Greece, along with Athens, earned widespread approval as an international model for early response by moving swiftly to cancel large public gatherings, implement strict lockdown and disinfect public spaces across the capital with new deep cleaning technologies. The strategy resulted in impressively low infection and death rates compared to other EU nations of a similar size; but inevitably impacted on vulnerable and high-risk groups who faced isolation, disruption to treatment and rehabilitation services, and reduced access to social programmes.
“The City of Athens followed these measures while also moving quickly to bring experts together from all sectors to protect marginalised communities,” WHO writes.
The tribute continues:
"Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world, with the imposing Parthenon dominating the city as a reminder of perseverance and endurance. Wisdom often comes with the years."
Singled out for extra praise was The Versatile Centre for Homeless People, created during the pandemic by the Municipality of Athens to create a fairer city. The new site combines accommodation with health and social care services to promote the physical and mental well-being of guests, in tandem with a Day Centre that grants access to internet, healthy meals, hygiene facilities and information about Covid-19.
"These programs reflect progress in addressing the long-term challenges of homelessness and substance use, and improving access to health care for people with disabilities," writes WHO.
The article also stresses that Athens is part of the 70-city global network committed to saving lives through the prevention of non-communicable diseases and injuries - the Partnership for Healthy Cities. Since March, the Partnership has been expanded to deal with the pandemic as cities urgently respond to their pivotal role in the fight against Covid-19.
Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis is quoted as saying:
"When the city and civil society join forces, the result is more than fruitful, as together we can open an increasingly secure umbrella over marginalized populations.”
"In this battle against time, no one should be left behind."
You can find out more about Athens’ continuing efforts to create a safer, cleaner, brighter and more accessible city for both residents and visitors here and read the WHO article in full here.