Athens (AFP, AMNA, GreekNewsOnline)
Greece became the latest country to announce a partial lockdown Saturday to combat soaring coronavirus infections, and news reports suggested England may soon follow as other countries faced growing protests over restrictions.
Portugal is also considering tighter restrictions as the infections hit record numbers there, while Slovakia launched an ambitious programme to test its entire population.
Greece confirmed 2,056 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, of which 62 are linked to known clusters of infection and 22 were identified at entry points to the country, the National Public Health Organization (EODY) said.
All cases in Greece total 39,251, of which 4,112 relate to travel from abroad and 13,278 to already confirmed infection cases.
A total of 135 individuals are intubated. Their median age is 65 years, 93.3 pct have an underlying condition or are aged 70 or more and 38 of them are women. Another 291 have been discharged from ICUs since the start of the pandemic.
EODY also registered 6 new deaths, bringing coronavirus fatalities to 626 in total. Of the latter, their median age was 79 years, 96.2 pct had an underlying condition and/or were aged 70 or above, and 238 were women.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared a partial coronavirus lockdown in a televised address Saturday. “We must act now, before intensive care units buckle under the strain of lives in danger,” he said.
“The virus is attacking in waves, and we need to quickly adapt.” The new lockdown will close restaurants and other leisure activities in Athens and other major cities from Tuesday.
The rest of the country will have to abide by an overnight curfew in addition to the compulsory use of masks even outdoors, Mitsotakis said.
The Hellenic Police (ELAS) has stepped up its inspections to check compliance with restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with its officers carrying out 47,869 checks on Friday.
Officers registered a total of 1,518 violations of rules stipulating the mandatory use of face masks in public areas and 344 violations of a public curfew between 12.30 and 5 a.m., fining violators 150 euros each.
Of the face mask violations, 756 were in Attica and 153 in Thessaloniki, while 235 of the curfew violations were in the greater Athens area and another 33 in Thessaloniki.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced the intensification of anti-coronavirus restrictive measures during a televised address to the nation on Saturday.
The measures will take effect on Tuesday November 3 at 06:00 and will stay effective for one month.
Greece is now divided into two zones of health safety and protection from the novel coronavirus, as opposed to the current four: Monitoring and High-Risk zones.
The Monitoring Zones include all the prefectures which until now showed relatively fewer infections, namely the ‘green’ and ‘yellow’ alert areas. Standing measures there stay, said the Prime Minister, but are intensified: use of face masks everywhere, indoors and outdoors, an overnight curfew from 12:00 midnight to 05:00, telework for a 50 pct of the work force in the public and private sector, and distance learning in universities.
The High-Risk Zones include the areas which until now stood in the ‘red’ and ‘orange’ alert areas, including northern Greece and the Attica region, said the Prime Minister. On top of standing measures there, the operation of all restaurants is suspended, exempting food delivery and take-away orders. Bars, night-clubs, coffee shops, cinemas, theaters, museums and indoor gyms will all shut down entirely for one month.
Mitsotakis clarified that unlike Greece’s first lockdown earlier in the year, citizens can move freely in the hours beyond the curfew and without having to request an outing permit via SMS messaging. Travelling from one prefecture to another is also still allowed, he added.
“We are not talking about a total ‘freezing’ of daily life,” he explained, “as a universal lockdown would be the last step and would hurt the economy and society,” he stressed.
Finance Minister Christos Staikouras announced economic support measures for workers and businesses in view of additional restrictions against the coronavirus pandemic announced by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday.
The cost of these support measures totals 2.3 billion euros until year’s end, clarified the minister, while for November alone, which coincides with the duration of the new measures, the cost of these amounts to 1.5 billion euros, he added.
Employees affected by the emergency measures, which include extensive closures of restaurants, bars and coffee shops, among other establishments, can claim support wages of 534 euros per month after the temporary suspension of their contracts, while their social security or insurance contributions will be covered by the state where and for how long restrictions apply. During that time, lay-offs are deemed illegal, and rent rates in commercial real estate and primary residences are cut by 40 pct.
Businesses affected by emergency measures will see their VAT tax payments payable in November extended to April 30 2021, while bank loan monthly payments are suspended to year’s end.
Unemployment benefit claims that expired or will expire in the months of September, October, November and December are extended by two months.
SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance party slammed the Saturday announcement by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of a one-month plan of additional restrictions against the persistent increase of new coronavirus cases nationwide.
In a statement, the party said that during his televised address “Mitsotakis inadvertently confessed the government’s catastrophic failure over that last eight months, having done absolutely nothing to prepare the country for the pandemic’s second wave.”
The Prime Minister instead announced mere closures, the party continued, without mentioning additional support planning for either the country’s national health system or the urban centers’ public transport.
“With more than 1,500 new daily infections and with the national health system at the end of its tether (…), Mitsotakis did not talk about immediate hirings of doctors or the emergency allocation of ICU beds at private hospitals and clinics.”
The main opposition party emphasized that above all the Prime Minister “did not talk about public transport, where every day more than 1 million citizens, stacked like sardines in a tin can, go to work, while some 270 transport vehicles are parked at depots.”