ATHENSC — "We can disagree on the level of political proposals but it is not possible to disagree on the facts, about the real picture that prevails today in our country and over what has happened in the last 10 months," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday, opening the debate in Parliament on the course of the pandemic in Greece.
"Today, according to the ECDC map, the only two countries that are not marked red and have some green areas are Greece and Finland," the prime minister pointed out, referring to the data and showing specific diagrams. "The sharp increase in hospitalisations, which started in early November, was dramatic and peaked in early December, while it is now declining," he said, adding: "Our country is in 21st place, the 5th with the fewest deaths from the coronavirus among European countries."
"The successful treatment of the second wave is due above all to our health professionals," Mitsotakis stressed and noted that "this de-escalation in the course of the epidemic is due to the fact that, during the holidays, with a few exceptions, Greek society showed discipline in following the recommendations of the experts. It seems that we cleared the hurdle of the Christmas and New Year periods without much turmoil. It is also due to the political decision to impose a stricter lockdown in the last two weeks."
However, as the prime minister stressed in his speech, "this positive course does not allow any complacency".
Mitsotakis then referred to the free tests for the coronavirus, saying that "the testing.gov.gr platform is open, for anyone who wants to do a free rapid test."
"From the first moment we acted so that no one will be left unprotected," Mitsotakis said and explained: "We gave 24 billion euros in 2020, almost 15 pct of GDP. Almost 700,000 benefited from the repayable advance. We did not see any burden on the overall employment balance. We have given priority to the protection of jobs, this policy works. Let's not forget that from January 1 many households will see an increase in their income from the abolition of the solidarity contribution and a reduction in social insurance contributions."
"Every month of lockdown costs the Greek economy over 3.0 billion euros," the prime minister said, adding that "for this reason it is the time to gradually take the risk of reopening the economy, as long as the experts advise in favour of this."
Mitsotakis pointed out that "click away worked for certain industries, not so much in clothing and footwear. The government is ready to proceed with the gradual reopening of the economy as of Monday. The fine will be increased from 300 to 500 euros so that we can support the economy without endangering public health. I want to be clear that every opening of the economy causes a reasonable increase in cases. And as long as this does not put pressure on the national health system, we can tolerate it."
The prime minister also announced new financial support for those affected by the pandemic, saying that "the coverage of the rent of professionals by 80 pct is extended to February," but also that "all the unemployment benefits that have expired are extended for another two months."