ATHENS – With warmer spring weather setting in and Greeks leaving their homes more, Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis will give a nationally-televised address at 6 p.m. on April 28 to announce a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said that would be followed by briefings given to his Cabinet ministers and members to discuss how the staggered reopenings of businesses and some public spaces would unfold.
Small shops including hairdressers will be among the first shops to reopen, Petsas said, adding that churches would follow at a later unspecified date although Bishop Ieronymos had asked for them to be able to open their doors now.
The lockdown started March 23 before a single death had been recorded and was credited with helping keep down the number of cases and fatalities, making Greece among the most successful countries in the world in dealing with the pandemic.
It’s expected the lifting will begin May 4 or May 11, although restrictions will stay in place during the May Day holiday weekend with people barred from going to their villages or islands as happened during Easter.
The Health Ministry said as people get out of their house more after only being allowed out for permissible trips such as going to supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, doctors and hospitals that besides social distancing requirements to stay at least 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) apart that face masks would be mandatory in closed places and businesses.
That also includes grocery stores, hospitals, clinics, and hairdressers among others although larger retail stores, malls and major businesses won’t be in the first wave of the planned reopenings.
A ministry committee of experts cautioned that using masks should not give a false sense of security and isn’t a panacea for social distancing, hand hygiene, and avoiding touching the face (eyes, nose, mouth) with the hands.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said face masks can be used by the public to reduce the chance of the coronavirus being spread by people who have been infected but remain asymptomatic, as many also wear gloves to prevent being infected from touch points such as door handles, shopping carts, and ATM keyboards.
Health Ministry spokesman Sotiris Tsiodras has stressed that careless use of masks will not only not reduce the risk of infection but increase it.