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Politics

Mitsotakis Announces Three-Week Horizontal Lockdown in Greece (Vid)

November 4, 2020

ATHENS — Replying to press questions after he announced the start of a three-week nationwide lockdown in Greece starting next Saturday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that his decision to order a lockdown just days after announcing a set of less stringent restrictions was because there was a sharp change during this week, with cases rising exponentially.

The prime minister was asked whether he had failed to properly assess the situation and noted that the decisions were a response to the previous week's data.

"For reasons we are not certain we understand, there was an exponential growth in the spread of the virus in the last week. Last Thursday I took the first decision but something changed dramatically this week. We saw a rapid reproduction of the virus and we are starting to see the same trends in other parts of the country," said the prime minister, adding: "I have to remind you that based on last Thursday's data the picture in the country was much better than the one in all the other European countries but this will change this week. I chose to take measures before the country turns red and the health system comes under great pressure."

Our intention, said Mitsotakis "is to contain the rapid spread of the virus now, not only to avoid putting pressure on our hospitals, which is my first priority, but also because I want us a return to some semblance of normality in December, the holiday season, which is an important period for the market."

He clarified, however that this normality would have rules and that Greece "will not return where we were in June and in August," underlining that the resilience of the economy is significant and that the country "has ammunition" at its disposal.

The prime minister announced that special measures will apply for the farming sector, such as seasonal workers for the olive harvest, in order to ensure the food supply, while noting that the end of the lockdown will not mean a return to "business as usual".

"We consider that three weeks will be enough but that does not mean that in December we will return to normality. We will open the economy with great caution and responsibility so that we have a Christmas that resembles those we have every year," he said.

He assured reporters that Greece's health system will be able to cope, noting that the lockdown was being imposed precisely for this reason, as even the most advanced health systems cannot withstand an exponential rise in the transmission of the virus. He said the health ministry will announce additional hiring in the health sector, where 6,800 doctors and nurses had already been recruited and ICUs almost doubled.

"We will continue this effort so that anyone needing treatment in an ICU can get it," he added.

On the issue of public transport, he said that the government had done the best it could, increasing the number of buses in Athens and Thessaloniki and using innovative financing methods. Throughout the world, he noted, there was intense crowding on public transport at peak times, "which is why masks are so important".

"The one mistake, which was perhaps predictable, was the overall complacency that this was over. Even though we knew it would come back, even though we prepared, psychologicall we all wanted to believe that we were done with this nightmare," the prime minister said.

He also noted that Greece had done significantly better than many other countries by taking action early, despite the long-term structural weaknesses of its public health system.

The prime minister sent a message of optimism, noting that the health system still had significant capacity and had not reached its limit.

"Until a vaccine is found, we will have a constant process where we alternately press on the accelerator and the brakes. The more responsible we are with the basic measures and the more convincing we are in explaining the measures, the less we will need suffocating restrictions," he added.

He emphasised that certain activities, such as clubbing, dancing and singing were in themselves "super-spreader" events. "We failed to adequately explain this to our young people and we were not alone," he said.

He clarified that Greece will have access to all the vaccines that are bought by the European Union, based on its population: "We are already working on a plan for rapid vaccination based on the quantities at our disposal and, of course, we need to convince the more timid of our fellow citizens that these vaccines are safe," he said.

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