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Economy

Greece: Retail Markets to Reopen Jan. 18 on “Click-Away” System

January 15, 2021

ATHENS — The government plans to reopen retailers as of Monday, with the click-away method, provided the experts meeting today give the okay, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in Parliament on Friday, referring to the system where consumers pick up their online orders in person.

During his briefing on government's handling of the coronavirus, Mitsotakis also reviewed the number of available ICU beds and referred to the donations of the private sector, such as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which increased the beds for Covid-19 patients in ICUs. "Today we have 424 unused beds in ICUs and the luxury to discuss the relaxation of pandemic restriction measures," he said, adding that the number of positive cases remains at under 3 pct and has been dropping steadily the last 10 days.

His EU proposal for a Europe-wide digital certification of vaccination could "become a communication bridge between Europeans, overcoming restrictions in travel, something extremely important for Greece ahead of the summer season," he said, reflecting anxiety over the next tourism season.

A complicated and difficult project such as the national vaccination program is likely to have problems, "but the issue is to locate them quickly and resolve them," Mitsotakis pointed out. "By the end of the first quarter, we will have been able to vaccinate nearly 2 million citizens," the premier said, asserting that "the target of securing the population's safety by early summer is feasible."

After criticizing main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras for "reverting to your old self, armed with the cliches of a minority segment of your party", in his response to Tsipras' speech Mitsotakis said the opposition had nothing to propose beyond hiring more medical staff for the National Health System.

He admitted that infectious diseases experts and local officials of Thessaloniki had requested of the government a shutdown of their city earlier than what happened, but this was not recommended by the Health Ministry's experts committee.

Overall, he noted, "it would have been better that the lockdown lasted only three weeks, but the number of infections did not drop at a hoped-for rate." Data needs to be constantly evaluated, he added. Citing the example of Germany, which went into lockdown to April, he said to Tsipras, "I didn't see anyone criticizing Chancellor [Angela Merkel]. The facts changed. Is that so difficult for you to understand? […] It's not a Mitsotakis pandemic – it's a Covid-19 pandemic. As unhappy as that makes you on several levels, we managed better than other European countries, and this is good for Greece. It may not fit your opposition narrative, but it remains good for Greece," he said.

Mitsotakis said that "you need to understand we are all in this together – if you want to criticize something, back it up with substantive proposals."

Commenting on reopening retail, the premier said that any such opening, whether of schools or economic enterprises, entails some dangers. "We have no proof that retail had a substantial role in the virus' dispersion. Supermarkets are still operating and there is no dispersion linked to them," he stressed, while in terms of mass transport, the government he said had provided to the public the number of buses added to the fleets in Athens and Thessaloniki.

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