ATHENS – In the face of withering criticism he’s going back and forth between tough and lenient measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said a partial easing is the right approach.
He defended his decision to let most retail stores open with conditions limiting customers or through a click-and-collect method that lets people order online and pick up goods outside stores beginning April 5.
The food sector of bars, restaurants, taverns and caterers will still be shut as they have been for more than half the previous 12 months, putting many of them at risk of going under.
But the government pulled back plans to let schools reopen then after its advisory panel of doctors and scientists said it was too risky as cases of the Coronavirus, deaths and people on ventilators in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) hasn’t abated enough.
“New conditions require new decisions,” Mitsotakis said in Parliament, adding that the government was not opening up economic and social life, but only “readjusting activities,” reported Kathimerini.
That approach has been used on and off to no avail, leading to rival parties sniping at what they said was his waffling and indecision about how to fight the more than year-long pandemic.
“We ought to adapt, to evaluate measures and to scrap measures that proved ineffective,” he said.
“We are entering a new phase, with different characteristics and a more infectious mutation. The (warm) weather is on our side. Public fatigue has intensified, but we now have the vaccines,” he said.
That was in reference to a slow-moving vaccination campaign that has seen only little more than 565,000 people out of a population of 10.7 million getting both of the two required shots needed.
Health experts said that 70 percent of the country, or some 7.49 million people need to be fully inoculated to slow the pandemic but fewer than 10 percent have even as the government wants to reopen to tourism on May 15.
The government had admitted it was easing restrictions because of “lockdown fatigue” that saw so many people not wearing masks or keeping a safe social distance despite the risk, spiking the numbers.
He warned against complacency, a cry which has failed to make enough people follow health measures, even as he said, “More freedom comes with more responsibility,” hoping that will be heard and followed.