Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA)
“We can’t stay shut in forever,” said Prof. Sotiris Tsiodras, the health ministry’s spokesperson for Covid-19, during the daily press briefing on the virus on Saturday. He noted that there must be a gradual and controlled easing of the restrictive measures, and that this required both vigilance and strict observance of hygiene rules.
If vigilance was not relaxed, he noted, infection levels in Greece will remain low and “we will be able to go back to our lives.”
Tsiodras said that the strategy in Greece was based on the science and not on social pressure, explaining that to continue the lockdown until the discovery of a vaccine, which could take up to 18 months and whose effectiveness would in any case be uncertain, was impossible. It would, in any case, be preferable to start opening things now rather than in the autumn, when other viral epidemics, such as influenza, also started to reappear, he added.
Tsiodras noted that immunity in the population will be built up gradually, with some people giving estimates as high as 50-70 pct immunity, but this must not happen too quickly. He also noted that there were two schools of thought regarding in immunity: “The World Health Organisation says that we cannot be certain whether the individuals who get sick develop antibodies that protect them, whereas other scientists, including myself, believe that we develop antibodies that last for about a year.”
Giving the latest figures for the spread of novel coronavirus in Greece, Tsiodras reported 16 new cases found by tracing the contacts of existing Covid-19 patients and no deaths on Saturday. The total number of confirmed cases in Greece to date was thus 2,506, of which 56 pct were men, he said. Of the known cases, 578 were linked to travellers and 1,174 to contacts of known cases. The number of patients currently intubated was 47, Tsiodras said, with an average age of 67, of which 13 were women and the rest were men. The total number of deaths from Covid-19 remained at 130 on Saturday, with an average age of 74, while 63 patients had recovered and left intensive care.
Tsiodras also replied to questions on the latest figures showing that Covid-19 patients might be experiencing shortage of oxygen without experiencing shortness of breath. He noted that everybody “needs to be alert to the symptoms” and said that WHO has added new possible symptoms to the list, such as headaches, muscle aches and the loss of the sense of smell and taste.
“We knew that there was a percentage of patients that did not have symptoms and another that was in the phase before symptoms develop. Both these groups could transmit the virus to their environment. We now know that those who don’t have symptoms but will develop them in due course are more numerous. It is believed that 50 pct of transmission comes from these people,” Tsiodras said. It was therefore very important for even the slightest symptom to be medically evaluated, he added.
On the courtrooms that are to reopen on Monday, Tsiodras said the safety measures decided included the use of a mask by the judges on the bench, lawyers and others in the courtroom, as well as the presence of antiseptics in all courtroom areas and observance of rules – such as a minimum 1.5-metre distance between individuals and having only one person per 10 metres square.
MAKE NO PLANS
FOR MAY 1ST
A warning to people that the lockdown measures will continue to fully apply until May 4 – and that no one should be making any plans for First of May – was given during daily coronavirus briefing on Saturday, by Deputy Civil Protection and Crisis Management Minister Nikos Hardalias.
“The effort is not yet over. We might be ready to pass onto the next phase but that does not mean that we can forget which stage of the effort we are currently at,” Hardalias said, commenting on the increased traffic and large number of unjustified movements observed in recent days, especially in Athens and Thessaloniki.
He emphasised the need to continue being careful “as the virus is here, it can be anywhere, and strike in exactly the same way as before. Until a vaccine is found, our daily life will not be what we have known. We must learn to live differently, with the protection of our own health and that of our fellow human beings as our primary concern.”
The deputy minister said that the Greek people will be officially informed about the gradual easing of the measures at the start of next week, stressing that the government was acting according to a plan, after studying all the available facts.
The gradual return, he emphasised, with not be to the previous state but to a “new normality”, while warning that the process will not be at all easy. “We will have cases and admissions to hospital and, unfortunately, deaths. There will be sites of resurgence and we must continue to observe hygiene measures for a very long time,” he said, adding that any flouting of the hygiene measures “cannot be accepted by anyone”.
He noted that, in some cases, measures will need to taken anew and some areas may need to go back into quarantine, while the assessment of the situation at any given time will be continuous.
Regarding attendance of courts and deeds registries by the public, Hardalias said that this should be the B2 code used for banks.
Hardalias announced that tests on airline passengers from abroad are continuing, with four flights carrying 220 people arriving on Friday, of which one tested positive for the virus. The other passengers will remain in quarantine for 14 days. He said that curfew restrictions for areas within the Ioannina municipality will continue until May 5, while the additional restrictions imposed on the island of Mykonos will end on April 28.
On the work of the civil defence service for tracing Covid-19 cases, he said that 1117 cases have been traced and 2986 close contacts found, who have been advised to observe a 14-day quarantine at home.
The Greek police on Saturday said they had written out 35 fines for unauthorised movement outside the region of residence on the previous day, Friday.
The violations of the ban on travel were recorded in the regions of Attica (20), Central Macedonia (9), Western Greece (3), Central Greece (1), Epirus (1) and in Thessaly (1).
It is noted that fines of 300 euros were imposed for these violations, while police removed the number plates of 19 vehicles for 60 days. Since the start of this measure, a total of 1,134 violations of this type have been confirmed and an equal number of 300-euro fines imposed, while in 731 cases the vehicle number plates have been removed for 60 days.
At the same time, 1,291 fines of 150 euro were imposed throughout Greece on Friday for unnecessary movement outside the home. Specifically, there were 474 in Attica, 184 in Thessaloniki, 108 in Central Macedonia, 80 on Crete, 74 in Western Greece, 68 on the Ionian islands, 63 in the Peloponnese, 47 in Thessaly, 47 in Central Greece, 42 in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, 36 in the North Aegean, 34 in the South Aegean, 25 in Epirus and nine in Western Macedonia.
Since the beginning of the measure, on Monday, March 23, a total of 51,777 violations have been confirmed throughout Greece and an equal number of fines have been imposed.
Also, 16 violations were confirmed for flouting the ban on the operation of stores and 15 were arrested. Since the beginning of the measure, on Thursday, March 12, 512 violations have been confirmed across the country and 491 people have been arrested.
Greek police stressed that inspections continue with undiminished intensity, in order to protect public health.
EASING OF MEASURES
The government was having meetings and consultations over the weekend to finalise a plan for the gradual transition to normality and a progressive lifting of curbs to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. On Saturday’s briefing at the Maximou Palace the Prime Minister’s office was expected to have the first assessment of the proposals of a special committee for the operational plan on exiting the lockdown, to be followed by other contacts.
According to sources, the government executive team will evaluate the facts and the recommendations of both healthcare experts, as well as those concerning the economy, finalising the parameters for exiting the quarantine that will then by announced by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in a nationwide televised address early next week.
Scientists, government officials and civil defence personnel are all quick to point out, however, that despite the encouraging figures seen in Greece regarding the spread of the virus in the community, people must be armed with patience as the return to “normal” will require slow and careful steps. There is no room for complacency, they warn, as carelessness can easily lead to a resurgence of the epidemic that could quickly get out of hand.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis chaired a video conference with the leadership of the deputy sports ministry to discuss the planning for the next steps in a resumption of sporting activities, on both a professional and amateur level.
The talks focused on supporting the amateur sports movement, so that the first easing of the restrictions in place to avoid spreading Covid-19 will include the ability to do individual sports and train in outdoor areas.