A young Italian national arrived in Greece to celebrate the completion of his senior year final exams. The results of the most recent “test” he took upended his immediate future as he became a Mykonos Covid case. What happened to him next demonstrated the shortcomings of Greek government health authorities as novel Coronavirus cases rise three-fold within the country as tourism peaks.
Scheduled to return home from Mykonos on July 16th, a positive Covid-19 test put the 18-year-old’s travel plans on hold for ten days — and worse yet, without accommodations in which he could quarantine and recover.
The normal protocol for those who test positive with Covid-19 is that they receive notification from the clinic or doctor’s office where the test was administered. The clinic reports the results to the National Organization for Government Health Services (EYOPP) with the individual’s vital statistics and contact details.
Under normal circumstances, the individual is contacted within hours of the results being reported. The EYOPP then gives instructions and advice to the patient.
The EYOPP instructs residents of Greece to self-isolate at home and share information with the organization of anyone they may have exposed to the infection within their close circle of friends and family.
For ten days, the service monitors the patient by calling to check on them for symptoms such as fever and blood oxygen levels. They also try to confirm that the individual is remining in quarantine. Tourists who test positive for Covid pose the added problem that they cannot isolate “at home.” Hence, the government has created “Covid Hotels” for visitors to isolate in the place they were tested.
Italian In Mykonos With Covid Finds Himself Homeless
Lorenzo, who chose not to use his real name to protect his privacy, spoke with Greek Reporter about his experience of finding himself required to quarantine in place by authorities but at the same time being “homeless” and without guidance.
Lorenzo and his friends had arrived on Mykonos just as the government had issued new safety restrictions to stop the spread of Covid-19. A day earlier, mingling and dancing in public venues had become an offense with fines across the nation as the government tried to stop an uptick in Covid cases. The group of Italians arrived in Mykonos with Covid on the rise and no legal opportunity to mingle or dance.
After a week’s stay in Mykonos with his group of eight friends — a mix of young men and women — the schoolmates went to a local clinic to be tested for Covid-19, as according to government protocols, they required proof of a negative test for novel Coronavirus before boarding their return flight to Italy the next day.
Lorenzo seemed to draw the short straw in the group of nine. He was the only one who tested positive following the rapid test, making him a Mykonos Covid case.
Lorenzo wanted to take another test, to confirm the results were not a fluke. He and his friends had been to the same places at the same times and it seemed incredible to him that only he had been exposed and infected.
Incredulous About Positive Covid Results
“I couldn’t believe it at first. I thought it was a mistake, a joke. All of us had been together at the same places, but I was the only one out of nine of us that was positive,” Lorenzo told Greek Reporter. He took a rapid test and requested to have a second 24 hour PCR test administered but the clinic refused. He said they insisted their results were not faulty.
He added that what made the circumstances even more incredible was the fact that he had been vaccinated. “I received my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine a few days before we came to Greece. I was scheduled to have the second shot on July 17. Instead, I am not getting it but stranded in Mykonos with Covid,” Lorenzo said.
Lorenzo was able to remain in the accommodation they had used for the trip for one more day, when he learned of the positive results.
His friends returned to Italy the following day as they all checked out of the accommodations they had stayed in for the week’s vacation. Lorenzo tried to book himself into other accommodations for the next few nights but came up empty. Mid-July is the marker for high season in most of Greece and in particular Mykonos. There were very few places that had vacancies.
Lorenzo was forthright in his quest for a place to stay. When he did find a vacancy he informed the property management that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and needed a place to quarantine. Each possibility turned out to be a negative response. No one wanted to offer their hospitality to someone with the coronavirus.
The young man reviewed the Italian Embassy’s website in Greece following the positive test, in order to understand how to proceed. He said the embassy returned a response to his email query within a few hours. The EYOPP had still not made contact with Lorenzo as nightfall approached.
As a traveler who was “ill,” he chose to head to the Mykonos Health Center, baggage in hand, to seek assistance. His initial request to reception staff at the island’s medical center make him wait, outside the health center — on a bench. Emotion overcame the young man as it appeared he had no place to go and would be sleeping rough on the street for the first time in his life.
An elderly local man found the boy in a state of tears and distress and appealed to local media — Mykonos Live TV — about the boy’s plight. Eventually, the Director of the Mykonos Health Center, Dina Sampsouni, was notified. By 10 pm, Lorenzo was allowed to spend the night in one of the few rooms for patients.
EYOPP Takes 48 Hours to Make Contact with Patient
The EYOPP finally caught up with Lorenzo, 48 hours after his positive test results. The EYOPP had organized a place for him to stay, at one of the island’s designated Covid Hotels for the duration of his requisite quarantine period – another seven days. He has been in the accommodations that overlook one of the island’s beaches. The hotel offers him meals in his room and the EYOPP is in regular contact with him to monitor his symptoms.
“I was asymptomatic, I didn’t feel anything different than the day of my arrival,” Lorenzo told Greek Reporter. “Now I feel extremely tired, maybe because of the stress of finding out I had Covid and had no place to go, even if a symptom is feeling tired.”
The young Italian said he was extremely grateful to both the local man who showed him so much compassion as well as Sampsouni for bending the rules and allowing him to spend the night in the health center. “She was extremely kind for helping me and the gentleman too, who found me so sad and crying with no place to go,” Lorenzo said.
Currently, he has shown no symptoms other than being tired. Following his experience he told Greek Reporter “Maybe I wasn’t careful with the small details. We went places where there were a lot of people and we were so happy to have fun and be out again. We need to be more careful, so we don’t help spread the disease, to protect ourselves and our family and friends.”
Lorenzo said that two of his friends had gotten the Coronavirus three months back. Their symptoms were mild and didn’t require hospitalization. He did not know anyone who had died of the virus. He said “Wearing a mask, especially when others are not, is helpful — it protects you and others. Even if you are in close contact with others, you are protected.”
For the next week Lorenzo will hunker down in his hotel. He will spend his days, until his quarantine ends and he can go back to Italy, with Netflix, talking on the phone to friends and family and making notes in a journal about his experience.
In the autumn he will begin his first of three years at university to study management science and hopes to continue to pursue his masters degree.