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Mitsotakis Says COVID-19 Flouters Brought Lockdown

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PM Mitsotakis lays wreath at Tomb of Unknown Soldier on March 25 national holiday. (Photo by Eurokinissi/ Tatiana Bollari)

ATHENS – Greece had to be essentially locked down to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus because so many people – although a small minority – wouldn't abide by a voluntary quarantine, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said about why he did it.

“The many inevitably feel wronged when they see the few violate the government’s guidelines,” Mitsotakis told a Cabinet meeting held via teleconference. “Now this has become law and we are all obliged to comply with the government’s guidelines,” he said.

The conservative premier said that Greece had taken action sooner than many of its European peers to thwart the spread of the virus.

“The measures are tough and they will certainly have an impact on economic activity,” Mitsotakis said, according to Kathimerini, before it was reported the shutdown could be extended from April 6 to April 30 at least depending on compliance.

“Our aim has always been to buy as much time as possible and enable the [Greek] health system to respond as effectively as possible to an epidemic which, we know, will affect an increasing share of the Greek population,” he said.

The lockdown began March 23 and was immediately met with more violations as police were out checking to see if citizens on essential trips to supermarkets, pharmacies, doctors, hospitals and other open businesses had the required permission slips on their phones, downloaded on texts, or handwritten by themselves explaining why they were out.

Those going to or returning from their workplace also have to carry a completed form detailing their residence, work address and working hours although police were said to initially be warning people, which didn't work under the quarantine.

Those out on the streets under the lockdown face a 150-euro fine ($162.19) with reports that so far 766 people were penalized.

There were signs that panic buying in supermarkets had abated, leading the government to roll back a measure requiring them to open on Sundays and have extended hours, with the supply chain said to be refilling shelves to meet needs.