ΑΤΗΕΝS — The safety measures and restrictions implemented during the current nationwide lockdown are not as severe as those implemented during the first wave of the coronavirus in Greece, observed Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, at an interview with AlphaTV on Monday evening.
Citizens are currently "tired, naturally" with the virus' second wave of dispersal and the ongoing lockdown, he noted, and said he fully understands and sympathizes with how hard it must be for most people to have to stay at home, in isolation, restricted and removed from paused social activities due to standing measures.
The pressure exerted on the national health system is beginning to subside, as there is an observable reduction in new infections, as these measures are beginning to show a result. However, several months are required to reach a level of containment which can only be achieved by mass vaccinations, he underlined. By consequence, he said it does not look possible that night clubs and live venues will reopen before the start of mass inoculations, as the virus is being transmitted avidly at precisely those venues.
"We will salvage what we can from the Christmas trading season," he added.
As a general observation on people keeping up with safety restrictions, he said these could have been followed more diligently by all citizens, closer to how they did during the first outbreak earlier in the year. Consequently, reopening social and trading activity this time around, during the current second lockdown, was a decision impaired, put back by persistent high numbers in new cases.
The most active infection clusters at the moment are to be found not in major urban centers, but outside of those, in villages and smaller towns, as policing there is slightly more lenient than in big cities, he said, urging people to make sure they spend Christmas 2020 at home with their families and a maximum of 9 people, and avoid moving about from one city to another, or between prefectures.
On the subject of Greece reopening its tourism sector earlier in the summer, the Greek Premier said there is no evidence that the second outbreak is in any way related to said reopening. Testament to that, is the fact that countries like Israel, that did not reopen borders to tourists, were also hard-hit by a second wave of dispersal.
What is of the utmost significance now "is to keep the country's national health system standing upright, solid, and give doctors and nursing staff a breather," he stressed. An additional 7,000 doctors and nurses have been hired, while the number of intensive care beds was increased, he said.
Knowing that the coronavirus vaccines are upcoming is the "most powerful light at the end of the tunnel," and bearing this in mind, "the message is quite clear: they are safe."
"It is a miracle of science that we can have these vaccines available in only a matter of a few months," said the Prime Minister, "and which are actually safe and bring a result."
The coronavirus vaccines produced by Pfizer will be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on December 30, he estimated, "and within 48 hours from said approval they will be made available to Greece, signaling the start of mass vaccinations." Here, Mitsotakis said he grasps people's reluctance to be vaccinated, but he reiterated that they are safe as they have so far given great results in clinical tests.
Meanwhile, ahead of this positive development, safety restrictions and measures have to be observed by everyone "religiously," so that schools can reopen on January 7.
Discussing the economic fallout of the pandemic, he acknowledged that a recession of a magnitude of 9-10 pct "will leave behind some open wounds," but the state has so far stood by its citizens: "it has provided businesses with unprecedented liquidity, has given workers support wages and benefits, has supported professionals who rent commercial shops, entrepreneurs too, and has postdated citizen's tax obligations – an important financial package that kept productive economy alive."
Expanding on economic matters, the Prime Minister referred to EU's Recovery Fund as a "great opportunity for development and growth,' and he noted that the first disbursements to Greece from these support funds will arrive in 2021. Mitsotakis here said that his intention stands to pursue reforms "sooner rather than later."
The government managed to point up the fact that the thorny aspects of relations between Greece and Turkey are a European issue, not just a problem between two regional countries; this, he noted, "took a lot of work, in terms of diplomacy." He called on Turkey to re-evaluate its relationship with the European bloc and to bear in mind "that everything is on the table" regarding possible decisions that the European Union might take to deal with this issue. Greece stands ready for a dialogue with Turkey, provided that maritime tensions by way of Turkey's provocations come to an end.
Wrapping up, the Prime Minister said that although 2020 did not turn out to be the year anyone wanted or could have predicted, "it forced us to reevaluate certain things and made us realize that we have strengths we didn't even know were possible."