ATHENS — The election of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States will make Greek-U.S. relations even closer, government spokesperson Stelios Petsas said while talking on an Open TV morning news programme on Sunday.
"Over the recent period we saw a very good rapprochement of US positions with Greek positions. They had abandoned a policy of equal distances and neutrality towards Turkey. We believe that with the new administration under President Biden our relations will improve even further. The prime minister has already met Mr. Biden, some years ago, and has developed channels of communication that will be very useful after he takes office. When there is an intervening period between the previous and new administration, there are temptations for some that want to play a destabilising role in our region. We are on alert. Turkey's provocative actions over the preceding period have already created great tension in the region. We believe that reason will prevail and that we will see things unfolding smoothly for the coming period. In every case, we are ready to defend our sovereignty and our sovereign rights," he said.
Regarding the pandemic, he noted that the sharp surge in cases was a worldwide phenomenon and had overwhelmed more advanced health systems than that of Greece, which despite the spike in numbers was still in a better state than many other countries with a similar population and profile.
He also stressed the importance of being ahead of developments in decisions such as imposing a lockdown, even when the numbers might not seem to justify it, in order to avoid cases and deaths. Petsas was optimistic that three weeks of lockdown will be enough provided that everyone carefully complies with the protection measures.
"If we succeed in gradually opening schools or retail trade sooner, for example, we can also stop sending SMS messages. If we cannot than the period where SMS will be needed for some activities will be longer," Petsas said. He noted that the philosophy was that people stay within the limits of their prefectures "because the main enemy that feeds the coronavirus and its spread is mobility."
He explained that this "stop-go" accordeon policy will always depend on the resilience of the health system and the size of the epidemiological burden within the community, while the next steps will depend on the progress in the development of treatments and vaccines.
Petsas predicted that the first vaccines will be available in Greece at the start of next year and, combined with treatment protocols found to be most effective in the early stages of the virus, will "bring a visible horizon" to the pandemic.
The spokesperson also defended the government's record in terms of buttressing the national health system, noting that ICUs had almost doubled and nearly 7,000 additional staff hired, while the aim was to reach 1,200 ICUs throughout the country. He pointed out, however, that no health system can cope once the numbers get out of hand and urged strict adherence to the measures for stopping the spread of the pandemic.
In other parts of the broadcast, Petsas touched on the likely impact of the second lockdown on the economy, saying it was too soon to make a reliable prediction, and stressing the importance of preserving jobs and the productive fabric so there is a rapid recovery in 2021. He said the government's policy was geared toward preventing a spike in unemployment and ensuring that everyone still had their job once the health crisis was over.
He also highlighted the importance of boosting confidence in the policy adopted by Greece abroad: "When everyone understands that our plan is in the right direction, then Greece can borrow from the markets at historically low interest rates. We have already borrowed 16 billion euros at very low interest rates," he said.
The minister outlined steps the government has taken to support the cultural sector while noting that the aim is for Greece "to be able to operate before Christmas. This was why we took the measures quickly, so that in December we can have a gradual return that will allow us to have holidays with some degree of normality and so there can be turnover in the market," he added.