An organisation drawn one of the largest Greek population groups in Darwin, the Kalymnian Brotherhood Darwin Inc, has sent a letter to the Northern Territory’s Chief Minister Michael Gunner calling on him to answer community claims that a Greek church would be the target of a “fictitious” COVID-19 outbreak that would lead to a prolonged lockdown on a scale similar to that experienced in Melbourne and parts of Sydney.
The letter sent as an email to the Chief Minister last Friday was signed by organisation’s public officer Gerry Koukouvas and called on the Chief Minister to respond to reports received “through reliable sources” and reassure the community that it was not being targetted or that a lockdown for one or more months was planned by the territory government.
In speaking to Neos Kosmos on Monday, Mr Koukouvas would not reveal who his sources were for the matters raised in the letter to the Chief Minister.
In the email Mr Gunner is asked to verify whether members of the territory government were planning: “a fictitious Covid-19 outbreak, that will implicate the Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas and its parishioners” and went to state that “this pre-planned outbreak is said to be scheduled to commence on the 23rd (or 25th) of this month, following positive cases that will be said to have spread in the community, from the attendees of the Divine Liturgy, this Sunday coming (19 September).”
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The letter further stated that the “event” was to be staged “to put focus on and create division in our community, within the parishioners of the Greek Orthodox Church, who at times have been loosely described by members of your government as anti-vaxers and rebellious to the mandates of this pandemic.”
Neos Kosmos contacted the Brotherhood deputy-president Tammy Magoulias who confirmed that the letter had been sent and that Mr Koukouvas, as the public officer would answer all further questions. It is understood that a meeting was held on Monday evening by the brotherhood committee to discuss the letter.
Mr Koukouvas said on Tuesday that the organisation had been under pressure to write the letter which reflected the concerns raised by members who were fearful of a prolonged lockdown that would harm business and employment.
“I was getting calls all week to the point where one had to do something or be accused of not caring. We have had a lot of calls from people who are stressed out and the letter was sent as a committee. We are for our community and if they are stressing about something, we have to respond,” Mr Koukouvas said.
The letter went to state that: “This ‘so called’ event, will lead to an immediate lockdown, that will last one or two months and will only lax (sic) if the vaccination rates increase, within the Darwin community.”
Mr Koukouvas said the Northern Territory government had done a wonderful work in containing COVID-19 and had done nothing wrong but members were “stressed out” over a number of concerns.
COVID-19 figures in the Northern Territory reached a high of 13 new cases in April. Currently there are a total of four people who have contracted COVID and who were in quarantine centres.
Commenting on the tone of the letter Mr Koukouvas said it reflected what was said to him by community members.
“It is heavy language but the community is very stressed out, so we are going by what the community asked of us… We are waiting for a response from the Chief Minister and that there is no truth to the matter and that he will protect our freedoms and that Greeks are not targetted as mass spreaders.
“We are not anti-vaxers. We have all been vaccinated, most are pro-vaxers,” he added.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s spokesperson, Maria Billias, replied that none of the claims made in the letter were true.
“It is not only ludicrous but it is extremely dangerous for a community leader of vulnerable people to suggest a Government would deliberately create a COVID outbreak during a public emergency. It undermines trust and confidence in Government and institutions during a very serious public health emergency” Ms Billias told Neos Kosmos.
Mr Gunner said in quotes to the newspaper: ““Covid is and remains a very real threat everywhere in the world – including the Northern Territory.
“It will be around for years so we need to work out a way to live safely with this. And we have to do it in a way that keeps every Territorian safe, no matter who they are or where they live.
“Making sure our most vulnerable in the community – our kids, our yia yia and papou, and our remote Territorians – are protected by vaccinating those in the frontline is one of the ways.
“And I will not apologise for that.
“I promise all Territorians that I will continue to put them first, to protect them and protect their livelihoods.”
Meanwhile, a sermon delivered the parish priest of Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas in Darwin has drawn fire from the media and the attention of the Northern Territory’s Acting Chief Health Minister Dr Anthony Carpenter.
Fr Joel Xanthos is at the centre of anti vaxing storm following the release of a recorded sermon that he delivered in his church recently which was then reported in a Darwin newspaper, “NT News”, on Wednesday.
When Neos Kosmos contacted Fr Xanthos on Wednesday morning, he said that he did not wish to speak to the media.
In a statement sent to this newspaper, the Northern Territory Department of Health stated: “Acting Chief Health Officer Dr Anthony Carpenter today contacted Bishop Silouan from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in South Australia to discuss concerns about the spread of COVID-19 misinformation amongst the Greek Orthodox community in the NT.
“Bishop Silouan confirmed he is aware of the incorrect statements about COVID-19 being shared with the NT Greek Community and is working to engage with community members to provide factual information.”