Greek PM asks citizens to stay at home or "we will pay for it"

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis

“April may determine what the future will look like,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday, warning citizens that if they relaxed compliance with coronavirus lockdown measures "we will pay for it."

He made the statements during a discussion in Parliament on new legislative measures to contain the impact of the coronavirus epidemic.

"We are not at the beginning of the end, rather at the end of the beginning," Mitsotakis added.

Greek authorities have closed restaurants, bars, shops, playgrounds, schools, shopping malls, universities and gyms to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

“Everything that has been done so far has brought reservedly optimistic results,” he said, warning that the country needs to stay the course. "The effort must continue with the same vigor and maturity. April will be the most critical month, if we relax we will pay for it and we must not let this happen."

Greece has so far avoided "the tragic events" seen in Italy, Spain and the United States, Mitsotakis added.

Greece, which recorded its first coronavirus case at the end of February and took early measures to contain the outbreak, to date has reported 1,544 confirmed cases and 53 fatalities.

Mitsotakis acknowledged that the strict lockdown measures were having a serious impact on the economy. But the ultimate goal was to gain time and make sure that the public health system could withstand the pandemic, avoiding a collapse. "So far Greeks are succeeding on this," he said.

Opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras called for an economic rescue plan that will protect jobs and the salaries of low-wage earners, while also providing support for businesses via direct subsidies.