ATHENS — The introduction of free self-tests for Covid-19 at home will be a "significant addition to the national strategy on testing," Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister Akis Skertsos said on Tuesday, in an interview with Mega television. They will greatly facilitate the gradual reopening of schools and the retail trade sector, he added, noting that the government's aim was to reopen the economy and society with the necessary measures to protect public health.
"This is what the government is trying to do but we must simultaneously take into account the recommendations of the public health committee," he said.
Noting that the committee made its recommendations on the basis of the data on cases and hospital admissions, he stressed that the decision to postpone the reopening of retail trade in Thessaloniki, Patras and Kozani was based on such concerns. He urged all sides to be patient and noted that businesses and workers in the areas under lockdown will get financial support.
While acknowledging that week by week changes in activities were not ideal and that it was natural for people to feel fatigue with the measures, he explained that the main cause of concern in the above areas was the sharp rise in hospital admissions for Covid-19 and fears that the healthcare system will not be able to cope.
Skertsos said that self-tests will be available in cities from Thursday and in the rest of Greece on Friday, at which point parents will be able to go to pharmacies and get tests for their children with their AMKA number. He clarified that only school pupils and teachers will be able to get tests this week.
Any child testing positive will get a second free test and stay home to avoid spreading the virus, while the same will apply for the retail sector as soon as there are enough tests for this as well, he added.
The minister was unable to definitively state whether travel between different regions will be permitted for Easter, though the aim was to allow this in early May, while also noting that the extended lockdown could lead to contrary results.
"The experts on the health ministry's committee need to understand this…there must be an organised return, with safety, to economic and social activity," he said.
On tourism, Skertsos said that the aim was for 50 pct of the population to have been vaccinated by the end of June and that, once vaccination was open for the general population, the government will examine prioritising those working in tourism.