Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called for strict adherence to the health measures this holiday season and keep gatherings to a minimum. He said that the government is not pleased with the slow drop in coronavirus infections and the high number of intubations.
His comments were made during an interview with AlphaTV on Monday evening.
Earlier in the day it was announced that lockdown 2.0 will be extended until January 7, 2021. Schools, courts, restaurants, bars, cafes, entertainment, sports are among those that will closed until that date.
Travellers coming to Greece from abroad will also have to self-quarantine for 10 days. The new measure will go into effect from Friday, December 18 and will remain in force until Thursday, January 7, 2021.
Mitsotakis said he fully understands and sympathizes with how hard it must be for most people to have to stay at home, in isolation, restricted and removed from paused social activities.
Night clubs and live venues will not reopen before the start of mass inoculations, as the virus is being transmitted avidly at precisely those venues, he added.
As a general observation on people keeping up with safety restrictions, he said these could have been followed more diligently by all citizens, closer to how they did during the first outbreak earlier in the year.
“Christmas with our family, at most with one more, a maximum of nine people. These are the rules we must follow to protect ourselves and the people we love," the PM said.
The most active infection clusters at the moment are found not in major urban centers, but outside of those, in villages and smaller towns, as policing there is slightly more lenient than in big cities, he added.
Regarding Greece reopening for summer, the PM said there is no evidence that the second outbreak is in any way related to the reopening. Testament to that, is the fact that countries like Israel, that did not reopen borders to tourists, were also hard-hit by a second wave of dispersal.
What is of the utmost significance now "is to keep the country's national health system standing upright, solid, and give doctors and nursing staff a breather," he stressed. An additional 7,000 doctors and nurses have been hired, while the number of intensive care beds was increased.
The long-awaited start of a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out is the "most powerful light at the end of the tunnel," and bearing this in mind, "the message is quite clear: they are safe."
"It is a miracle of science that we can have these vaccines available in only a matter of a few months," the Prime Minister said, adding "and which are actually safe and bring a result."
The coronavirus vaccines produced by Pfizer will be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on December 30, he estimated, "and within 48 hours from said approval they will be made available to Greece, signaling the start of mass vaccinations."
On the topic of the economic fallout due to the pandemic, he acknowledged that a recession of a magnitude of 9-10 pct "will leave behind some open wounds," but the state has so far stood by its citizens: "it has provided businesses with unprecedented liquidity, has given workers support wages and benefits, has supported professionals who rent commercial shops, entrepreneurs too, and has postdated citizen's tax obligations - an important financial package that kept productive economy alive."
Concluding, the Greek PM said that although 2020 did not turn out to be the year anyone wanted or could have predicted, "it forced us to reevaluate certain things and made us realize that we have strengths we didn't even know were possible."