The outgoing year was tough and full of challenges but also full of successful efforts, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in his New Year's message, including a "medical miracle," the arrival of coronavirus vaccinations.
As the new Omicron variant is sweeping the planet and challenging all countries in the same ways, 80% of Greek adults have been inoculated since the first vaccines arrived a year ago, he said.
The new year, 2022, and particularly "the next few weeks, will bring ups and downs, but we have the opportunity to leave the storm behind us and lead our country to calmer waters," the prime minister said, "as long as we remain united, mature, and careful."
Although the Greek people are experiencing fatigue and concern about the pandemic, and although they expected this New Year's celebrations to be different, he underlined, "unfortunately we are welcoming the New Year with some restrictions in entertainment because this is what specialists have suggested we do. Let the company of people we love be the best substitute for the music we will not be hearing these days."
Mitsotakis was referring to restrictions that include earlier shutdowns of eating and entertainment venues and a ban on music at the same, imposed on Thursday after the super-spreading of infections this week, to discourage crowd gathering. The restrictions, he said in his message, are adapted to circumstances and are "planned to protect the market activity, social behaviour and the resilience of health facilities."
In 2021, the economy and society survived and the state promoted a massive financial support system "that allowed us during this economic storm to protect incomes, increase our Gross National Product, and achieve the greatest reduction of unemployment in Europe." In addition, he said, the country faced national challenges related to national defence while it also tried to secure its role in the region through strategic agreements.
"It is obvious that in the successive battles with the virus there were missteps, and that Greece's prosperity needs time to reach the average wallet, much more when the global energy crisis is also knocking at our door," Mitsotakis said. But he expressed the certainty that things would improve and asserted that "the government and I personally will be here, standing next to every Greek, correcting our mistakes, listening to your voices, and providing solutions where necessary."
The outgoing year reminded the world how vulnerable people are to large-scale events like the pandemic and the climate crisis, and highlighted the role of transnational coordination and the challenges of traps along the way. "We must bring to the forefront the ancient arete of Greeks: our power to transform problems into opportunities and obstacles into aids - this might be the most fitting way of honouring the 200th anniversary of freedom we celebrated this year," the premier said, referring to Greece's bicentennial since the War of Independence.
The government will "continue on the path to progress, protecting public health with flexible policies before Omicron" and by keeping the health advisories: getting vaccinated, particularly with the booster shot, doing several and frequent rapid tests, and observing basic protections, with primary among them the right use of face masks, the premier said, wishing everyone Happy New Year.