Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA)
The Health Ministry’s coronavirus spokesman and infectious diseases professor Sotiris Tsiodras said that the phase of the gradual relaxation of the lockdown “is very important, especially the next 15 days,” and called on people to be extra vigilant for any symptoms. Tsiodras announed on Monday evening that 6 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Greece in the last 24 hours, and 2 new deaths.
The Covid-19 infections total in Greece stands at 2,632. Fatalities stand at 146 since the start of the outbreak; 39 of them were women. Of the 146, a 93.2 pct had underlying health issues and/or their average age was 70 years or more. The average age of all the deceased was 75 years of age.
Some 35 patients are being treated in Intensive Care Units with an average age of 67 years. A total of 23 pct are women. A 91.4 pct of ICU patients have underlying health issues and/or are over 70 years of age. Another 81 people have so far been discharged from ICUs.
Some 80,951 Covid-19 diagnostic tests have been carried out in Greece since the start of the outbreak.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told CNN on Monday said that the success of containing the Covid-19 pandemic in Greece so far and this recognition internationally was a sentiment shared by the public, noting that Greeks “haven’t felt this proud in a long time.”
In an interview to Nic Robertson in Athens on Monday, Mitsotakis said that although the upcoming summer will be very different, citizens have now developed a new trust in the state and in health experts.
Speaking about the tourism, Greece’s heavy summer industry, the Greek premier said that the best-case scenario is Greece opening for tourism as of July 1, even though the exact date also depends on airlines and the implementation of strict health protocols in foreign flights.
There are no movement restrictions for people aged 65 or over, after the end of lockdowns for Covid-19 prevention measures, nor is there any ban on movement between 00:00 and 06:00, Civil Protection Deputy Minister for Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias said on Monday.
Debunking what he called ‘fake news’, Hardalias said these were suggestions to the public, and did not incur penalties if not observed.
The minister mitigated the fears of municipalities and communities with a heavy infection load about public movement, saying “there is no reason to worry, as long as measures are being observed and local authorities supervise their observation.”
He clarified that pools in apartment buildings were also included in the swimming pools ban, and announced the end of lockdown tonight for the city of Ermionida, in the Argolid, the villages of Zoubouli and Arnaouti in northern Greece, and the movement of people in the related Myki region. The lockdown in Kranidi, however, also in the Argolid, will be extended for preventative reasons for another seven days, he noted.
In addition, of the 36,230 individuals crossing borders into Greece during the six-week lockdown, all but 547 were asked to go on home quarantine for 14 days. People in this smaller group, testing positive to the virus, was asked to self-isolate. (Greece has conducted 80,951 tests overall as of Monday.)
“We are entering a new stage, we have taken the next step,” Hardalias said, asking the public to keep observing the measures in public despite the lockdown fatigue.
“As of this morning we have stepped onto the safety bridge that will gradually take us to a normality,” government spokesperson Stelios Petsas said on Monday during a press briefing. “The goal is to gradually and safely restart social and economic activity so that we can get our lives back. As of today, the restrictions on travel within prefectures are lifted but not for travel to [other regions] and the islands. Retail businesses as well as service providers are resuming their operations so that from today, we can say that next week we will all take a step forward.”
At the same time, Petsas stressed that “we all know that the hard part is only just beginning,” while noting that “the return to the new normality resembles exiting a labyrinth.”
“All of us, like Theseus, must reverently follow Ariadne’s thread and get out of the labyrinth of the coronavirus pandemic safely,” the government spokesperson said.
“It would be unfair to lose what we have so far achieved with sacrifices. We know that the return to normal that started today will be evaluated daily,” he noted and added that, as the prime minister has stressed, every plan is subject to improvements or revisions depending on the developments.
In any case, “we will go slowly, carefully and according to the epidemiological data.”
Petsas also underlined the protection measures needed in order to stay safe: “frequent and meticulous hand washing, not touching the face, keeping social distances, wearing a mask where necessary and, of course, staying at home and contacting our doctor at the first symptom.”
The government spokesperson stressed that, as before, the key to success was “individual responsibility and our collective maturity, discipline and having confidence in the experts’ advice.”
Regarding the health system, Petsas said that the goal was, on the one hand, that it remain fully prepared for the battle against coronavirus and, on the other hand, to gradually return to normal operation.
Petsas then explained that 1,100 people will be gradually be hired for the mobile units of the National Organisation for Public Health, including 500 nurses, 500 drivers and 100 administrators throughout the country.
Regarding the support of households and businesses, he said that many steps in this direction have been taken with a legislative act issued on May 1, including:
– A three-month extension of the protection regime for primary residences, exactly as it was until April 30, while the government, in addition to the second extension, is launching a new framework for bankruptcy law.
– An extension of a reduced rate of excise duty on the sale of heating oil until May 15 so that citizens can take advantage of currently low prices.
– Extraordinary financial aid equal to half of the basic salary for the staff of the health system who did not receive the extraordinary Easter aid, including staff in the pharmacies of the NODH.
– Support measures for sailors who are unemployed or whose contracts have been suspended.
– Facilitating the hiring of third-country nationals in agricultural work.
– Allowing the electronic submission of applications for enrollment in primary education
He also stressed that the government is extending the validity of support measures that were in force in April and at the same time launching measures for the next period.
Referring to the legislative work, the government spokesman pointed out that the discussion of a bill for the improvement of migration legislation starts on Tuesday in the competent Standing Committee of the Parliament. Its main axes are:
– Further acceleration of the procedures for the examination and granting of international protection, with priority given to the appeals of those residing on the islands.
– The establishment of legal conditions for the operation of closed type structures on the five islands of the Eastern Aegean, which will replace the current open structures.
– The establishment of a Special Secretariat for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors and the determination of its responsibilities.
– The updating of provisions of the Migration Code, including those concerning the issuance of golden visas.
Also, regarding the improvement of services to citizens and a more efficient operation of the state, Petsas stressed that a number of new digital applications have been implemented. Among other things, these include:
– Unemployment cards will be renewed automatically.
– The social security AMKA number of each citizen will now be issued electronically and the citizens will not need to submit registration documents for the birth, marriage, or death of their relatives.
– A number of services of the largest insurance organisation, e-EFKA, such as the issuance of social security information, will be provided electronically to 1.5 million self-employed, employees and farmers.
Concluding the press briefing, Petsas announced that the prime minister will participate in the Coronovirus Global Response at 17:00 on Monday.
“This is a great Donor Conference, an initiative taken by the European Commission, leaders of EU member states, the UN, the World Health Organization, the G20 presidency and others. The goal of the Donors’ Marathon, which calls for solidarity between governments and individuals, is to raise 7.5 billion euros to support the World Health Organization’s initiative to develop rapid and equal access to safe and effective diagnosis and treatment of Covid-19. But also in the development of a vaccine against coronavirus.”
Some 110 million outing permission text messages (SMSs) were sent out by citizens during the six-week coronavirus home quarantine, State Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis told SKAI radio on Monday.
As Monday was the first day the public left home without pre-approval, Gerapetritis commented that it was too early to have a complete picture of public behavior, but citizens did not appear to crowd in public transportation. They also appeared to have observed safety protocols of social distancing and hygienic protection.
Asked about the reopening of schools, he said that these will open not only for educational reasons, but also because open schools “contribute a lot to the mental balance of children.” He did express his personal reservations about the reopening of primary schools, but noted that authorities will “follow the advice of experts” when the time comes.
On issues of economy and tourism, he said that the situation will be re-evaluated towards the end of May, based on the latest epidemiological data from the partial opening of society and the economy. If all goes well then, he said, Greece will open for tourists from the beginning of July.
Referring to May 18 as a milestone date for evaluating the partial lifting of anti-pandemic restrictions, he said that the government may soon after allow tourists to travel to Greek islands.