ATHENS – Unable to keep some people from disobeying health measures aimed at preventing a new spread of COVID-19, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned complacency could undo the country's record in dealing with the pandemic.
Speaking Aug. 5 at the start of a teleconference about the rising cases – there were 121 the day before, bringing the total to 4,855 with 210 dead, the New Democracy leader didn't even mention the prospect of a second lockdown.
Many Greeks have abandoned wearing face masks, even in crowded indoor places like supermarkets where they are required, not keeping safe social distances of at least 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) apart.
With tourists allowed to start coming in July, the cases have jumped again but the spike in recent days has raised an alarm that there could even be a second wave within two weeks unless people adhere to health protocols.
“The increase in new cases is mainly due to a relaxation of the compliance measures within our country in July. And in that I believe we all have a responsibility for this. Only 10 percent of cases are imported; most cases at the moment are domestic,” he told journalists at the briefing.
Listening to a COVID-19 team of scientists and epidemiologists, he ordered a shutdown March 23 of non-essential businesses, lasting up to 10 weeks for some, with week-by-week gradual easing beginning May 4.
Mitsotakis noted that the recent “significant rise” in new cases is different from the one observed at the start of the pandemic, with his top epidemiologist, Dr. Sotiris Tsiodras, earlier issuing a similar warning of possible danger.
The infectious diseases professor said that the jump in infections is mainly due to community transmission and much less to tourism.
“We had stated very clearly in the announcements made at the end of April by me and the members of the government and by all those in charge…that the plan for the day after (the lockdown) is not a plan to end the health and financial crisis, nor is it a simple plan to return to some normality,” Mitsotakis continued.
“Normality, as we knew it until February and until the scientific community discovers the much-needed vaccine, but also the necessary treatment protocols, does not exist. That is why complacency cannot be justified,” he also added.
“The faithful adherence to the rules becomes even more imperative from now on,” he said, as the government is trying to balance the need to save the economy against saving lives, but needing cash to operate and prevent businesses from succumbing too.