ATHENS – It’s getting so in Greece you can’t tell the lockdown without a program after the New Democracy government – without an announcement – de facto extended a second COVID-19 lockdown from Jan. 7 to Jan. 11.
That came after a holiday period – when the lockdown announced Nov. 7 was pushed back to Dec. 7 but then to Jan. 7 because so many people weren’t following health protocols under a scheme far more lenient than a first lockdown in the spring.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis earlier admitted he waited too long to bring the second closing of non-essential businesses as he was trying to balance saving lives against keeping a staggering economy going, and it was revised but largely ignored.
The government during the Christmas holidays implemented a click-and-collect method to let shoppers order goods online and make appointments for store pickups but that has been suspended.
The major rival SYRIZA has accused the government of being wishy washy on what it wants to do and failing to handle the pandemic with a second wave surging after indecision and disagreement between government officials, including on a special panel of scientists and doctors giving advice.
The result has been a kind of pseudo-lockdown that was widely defied until the government got tougher, before backing off a bit during the holidays when a 9 o’clock night curfew was pushed back and hour and now brought back again.
The government extended the lockdown another four days to get through another weekend and allow schools to reopen despite worry that the virus could spread in the classrooms and with the health system still burdened by critical cases.
On Jan. 11, the health protocols will still be in effect even as openings are allowed, with stores coming next but the vacillation has seen SYRIZA and opponents accuse Mitsotakis’ government has been criticized of going back and forth from optimism to pessimism, from saying signs show improvement before sounding alarms, strict lockdowns in some regions and lesser measures in others.
And even now there’s talk in the government of bringing even tougher measures if the reopenings see cases spike again as they have during the roller coaster statistics during the 10-month epidemic.
In an interview with Kathimerini, Minister of State Giorgos Gerapetritis, a close aide to Mitsotakis, had hinted about about the temporary imposition of a stricter lockdown, adding to the confusion of going back and forth about what to do.
“We will not hesitate to take difficult decisions, to sacrifice some other economic or social activity or to restrict ourselves further in order to prioritize the safe return of students to their classrooms," he said although one doctor on the advisory panel said it might not be safe.
With a slow rollout of vaccines coming in the thousands instead of the millions, and no word on how they would be conducted as the lockdown goes on, Gerapetritis said – noting a decision from the country’s highest administrative court – that students will have to take the injection although there’s concern if it’s safe or effective.
He said the Constitution allows that to be mandatory after the government said taking the vaccine wouldn’t be mandatory and then people would have no choice which one they get from various companies producing them.
But there won’t be enough vaccines for students until June, when schools end, with the elderly and those most susceptible to the Coronavirus, along with politicians who cut to the head of the line to protect themselves.