ATHENS – Almost desperate to get the economy going again before thousands of temporarily closed businesses go under for good, Greece’s New Democracy is considering easing a third lockdown while the COVID-19 pandemic worsens.
Deputy Interior Minister Stelios Petsas told state broadcaster ERT that some measures could be relaxed after the government just tightened them because cases were hitting record highs, as were deaths and the number of people in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICU’s.)
With spring arriving, government officials were said to hope that it will be safer for people to be outside in warmer weather with no report how they would be prevented from gathering, a major cause of the Coronavirus’ spread.
Higher temperatures that encourage outdoor activities and optimism over ramping up vaccinations in April will allow epidemiologists to recommend a staggered lifting of curbs, he said.
“We’re heading towards conditions that will be a little bit looser,” Petsas said, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis waiting for the word from his advisory panel of doctors and scientists before deciding which measures could be eased for now.
Greece has been in and out of an alternating lenient and tougher third lockdown since Nov. 7, 2020 and there’s worry that a COVID-19 variant from the United Kingdom could make the pandemic rage again.
Non-essential shops, restaurants and schools have closed as the country has imposed and lifted curbs, leading to frustration about the going back and forth and with a riot developing after police tried to fine people in an Athens neighborhood.
State hospitals, badly hurt by a decade of underspending, have struggled to deal with treating some 4,000 COVID-19 patients and health authorities have urged doctors to volunteer their services to help, said Reuters, but there was a feeble response.
The newspaper Kathimerini said that he government is trying to avoid using the word “relaxation” in worry it will make people more complacent with defiance of measures such as wearing masks and staying a safe social distance had driven a sharp rise in cases.
“In any case, we take seriously into account the fatigue experienced by society and we are looking for decompression valves that can be activated short-term, of course always under rules and heightened vigilance,” government spokeswoman Aristotelia Peloni told reporters.
Looking for euphemistic words to describe what it’s doing in the face of withering criticism from the major opposition SYRIZA the government has lost control of the fight, Mitsotakis’ administration is using the phrase “decompression valve” to describe what it wants to do.
He has found himself in a dangerous dilemma: lifting restrictions which could see cases, deaths and critically-ill patients rise and overwhelm already-full public hospitals, or open for business, which could do the same while boosting needed revenues.
On the table, the paper said, is lessening the number of hours of an overnight curfew and gradually opening some businesses and activities despite the health risk as the crisis has intensified.
A restriction of allowing shopping only within a 2-kilometer (1.24-mile) radius when people have to cross over to a different municipality will be lifted because it couldn’t be enforced, the paper said.
Hairdressers and beauty salons will open on March 22, the report said, and officials are considering opening up archaeological sites and tourism set to be allowed again as of May 15.