THESSALONIKI – One of the happiest times of the year in Greece for people to get together – Christmas – is being dampened by the shroud of COVID-19 that makes gatherings unsafe, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis saying families should limit how many should be sitting at the table this year.
During a visit to Greece's second-largest city and major port, which has been overwhelmed with cases and deaths, which led him to bring a second national lockdown to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, Mitsotakis said family get-togethers should be limited.
“We will have a different Christmas this year. Much more limited, with our families, with the people we love, maybe one more family. And so it must be in this special 2020, which had many surprises in store for us,” he told medical and nursing staff at the Papageorgiou Hospital, said Kathimerini.
He noted, however, that the lockdown that's been going on for three weeks has helped reduce the number of cases although hospital Intensive Care Units (ICU's) had been almost filled to capacity, as were ventilators.
He had said he would have the state take over private hospital ICU's if needed but didn't, instead airlifting patients to Athens and even planning by moving them by train.
The number of people being admitted to hospitals is falling but not enough to cause any change in health protocols and restrictions, the lockdown already extended at least a week until Dec. 7 but likely longer.
"We know that we will have another one or two very difficult weeks ahead of us, but we also know that when we start to exit the strict restrictions, we will have to be doubly careful,” he said.
That was in reference to people not following the health measures, including wearing masks and staying safe social distances – it's still going on during the quasi-lockdown with signs of near normal street traffic and families gathering in large numbers in public areas outdoors.
People aren't allegedly allowed out of their homes except for permissible reasons such as going to supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, doctors and for exercise or walking pets but scenes have abounded showing thousands on pedestrian walkways.
“Responsibility weighs on all of us, I believe, and I was the first to recognize the share of responsibility that belongs to the state, but we must not forget that individual behaviors are what determine the rate of spread of the pandemic,” he added after admitting he waited too long to bring a second lockdown.
He told a local radio station that it was his fault for not closing non-essential businesses earlier, trying to keep the staggering economy from faltering even more, and that he should have locked down the city a week sooner,.
He said, however, that “there were not many voices” in the city asking for a closure, “nor did I have any relevant suggestion” from the expert committee of scientists and doctors advising him, indicating they were partly to blame for not recommending closing down the city earlier.