ATHENS – Trying to avoid a second lockdown, Greek Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is set to reveal what he called a one-month “action plan” to slow the spread of a resurging COVID-19 pandemic that has seen cases and deaths jump alarmingly.
That's due to be announced Oct. 30 after two more regions were locked down and now the country's second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki set to also to be added to the list of those hardest hit, including Larissa.
“As in the first phase, when we took action early on, we must take tougher measures again and earlier than other European countries to prevent the worst, save lives and reduce the pressure on the health system,” he told his ministers during a teleconference, said Kathimerini.
The government had already extended mandatory mask wearing to outdoors and barred public and private gatherings while imposing a curfew from 12:30-5 a.m. for areas with the most cases, but hasn't moved to shut down nightclubs.
But Mitsotakis said shops and schools will remain open without indicating how that would slow the pandemic as those are places where people gather, some still refusing to wear masks or stay a required social distance of 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) apart from each other.
“I will say again that our goal remains to avoid a universal lockdown, so we will proceed to further strengthen the targeted restrictions,” he told the Cabinet, said Kathimerini, the government anxious to avoid a further hit to the economy.
He said the next two weeks will be “crucial” and called on each ministry to ensure the implementation of the law, such as teleworking.
Mitsotakis said he believed Greece is two to three weeks behind other European countries in the development of the second wave of the pandemic with France already locking down again showing the fight against COVID-19 is being lost.
He said that the government will step up targeted restrictions in order to avoid a full lockdown but stressed that their implementation "must be absolute,” the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency (ANA-MPA) reported.
Mitsotakis, credited with holding down the number of cases and deaths when he locked down the country on March 23 for up to 10 weeks for non-essential businesses, has been reluctant to do it again with the economy struggling.
Adding to the dilemma has been the refusal of some to wear masks or not to gather, especially the young, with the average age of those infected dropping, although the elderly and those with multiple or underlying conditions are the most susceptible to the disease.
A record 1,547 cases pushed the total near the 35,000 mark and deaths were 603 before calculating the numbers for Oct. 29 with signs that it's still spinning almost out of control.