Thursday, March 26, 2020
Hello. For those of you I’ve not met, my name is Geoff Pyatt, I’m the American Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic. I wanted to take a couple of minutes today to speak with my fellow Americans here in Greece about the unprecedented challenges that we’re all facing together as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. I want to start by underlining my appreciation of the superb cooperation that we have had with the Greek government. I think Prime Minister Mitsotakis deserves a lot of credit for getting in front of this problem early, moving aggressively to a program of social distancing. We have had close cooperation with Minister of Health Kikilias and all of our partners in the Greek health care system, both to express our solidarity, but also to underline the American view that this is a collective challenge that we can only meet by working together. I also want to offer my congratulations to my friend Minister Kyriakos Pierrakakis for what the Ministry of Digital Governance has been able to do to fast track initiatives to use technology to help make us all safer in this unprecedented and challenging environment, and also to mention the strong cooperation between American companies like Google and Microsoft and Cisco that are working with Minister of Education Kerameus to ensure that children who have had to leave school because of this challenge are able to continue their studies and not lose the academic year.
But let me take a minute to share with you a little bit of what we are doing here at the Embassy to accomplish one of our most important missions, which is to look after the safety and security of the American citizen community here in Greece. We are your 9-1-1, and everybody in the American community should understand that they have an open line to the Embassy as we work through this unprecedented crisis. But we can’t help you if we don’t know you’re here. So my first request is that everybody should register themselves with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP. You can do so through the Internet today at travel.state.gov, where you will find a link to the STEP enrollment page. This is the mechanism that we will use to communicate with you as American citizens resident in Greece, whether you are here in Athens, or up in Thessaloniki, or in Crete or any of the islands, or of course the wonderful American citizen community in Western Greece that I’ve had the pleasure of getting to visit with when I’ve been in Patras. So, we want to stay in touch with you.
You have all seen the State Department’s advice to American citizens to come home, that in view of the growing Coronavirus crisis, the best advice is, if you are uncomfortable here in Greece, to take advantage of commercial air connections while they still exist in order to travel back to the United States. As of today, the 26th of March, there are still reliable commercial air connections to the United States. We cannot predict how long that will continue to be the case. So if you are not comfortable staying in Greece for a prolonged period of time, we would encourage you to be in touch with airlines now to find out what are the options for getting back to whatever is your safe haven in the United States and getting yourself home.
If you’re going to stay here in Greece, you will join us here at the Embassy. Our Embassy is strongly committed to continuing to do our diplomatic mission here. That is a message which comes directly from Secretary of State Pompeo. We are adhering rigorously to the government’s “Stay at Home” message. I would encourage all of the American citizens also to comply fully with the instructions that the Greek State has promulgated in terms of limitations on public movement, in terms or registering your movement in advance, and in terms of adhering to a rigorous program of social distancing, which is proven to be the most effective way to flatten the curve and to minimize the impact of this unprecedented challenge.
So we’re going to stay engaged here. You’ll be able to hear shortly from my colleagues in the Consular section. They are available to you. If you have particular concerns, please be in touch with the Consular section American Citizen Services team. And know that we’ll get through this. We’re going to get through this together. We’re going to get through this in the spirit of our alliance with Greece, and we’re going to get through it in the spirit of a relationship that is stronger and deeper today than ever before in the history of our modern relationship. So thank you for your partnership, thank you to all of our Greek American friends for being such an important part of how we build this relationship and deepen it, and I look forward to seeing you in person as we get through this and return to business as usual. Thank you very much, and good luck.