NEWS

No decisions in EU leaders' teleconference on Covid-19 aid

YANNIS PALAIOLOGOS, STAVROS PAPANTONIOU

TAGS: Coronavirus, Diplomacy, EU

European Union leaders said on Thursday night that they will do whatever is necessary to protect citizens from the Covid-19 pandemic but failed to agree on specific measures.

The summit’s conclusions did not include any reference to a request by nine eurozone countries, including Greece, for a common debt instrument to dampen the financial fallout from from the crisis, which economists warn could have catastrophic consequences.

Meanwhile, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde is launching new initiatives to support the eurozone economy, including the decision to lift restrictions on bond markets and to include Greek securities in quantitative easing (QE) leading to a sharp drop in yields.

Also on Thursday, Health Ministry representative Sotiris Tsiodras announced 71 new coronavirus cases, bringing the new total number to 892. The death toll has risen to 26 after another four patients died, he said.

Fifty-seven people are in intensive care, including 54 intubated, Tsiodras said, adding that 42 patients have recovered. 

Tsiodras appeared to strike a cautiously optimistic tone, saying that the spread of virus in Greece is “not aggressive” as in other European countries. However the lockdown imposed by the government to curb Covid-19’s transmission must be observed if this us to continue, he said.

“Lifting the measures now would be disastrous,” he said. One negative development he reported, however, was the incident of serious cases of coronavirus infections among younger people.

Meanwhile referring to efforts to boost the health system, government spokesman Stelios Petsas insisted that the government has sought from the outset of the crisis, with its first legislative act, to ensure the availability of “whatever resources are needed to fully support the system in terms of covering emergency costs, staffing, ICU equipment, supply of medicines and healthcare.”

The Health Ministry, he added, has been propped up with additional resources and this will continue. “We are adding intensive care beds and we are purchasing respirators,” he said. 

A flight carrying around 11 tons of medical aid from the United Arab Emirates including protective gloves, sanitizers and overalls for medical staff, arrived in Athens, on Thursday night. 

Petsas referred also the effort to prop up the economy, which projections say will contract, citing the ban on layoffs which has been in place since March 18, as well as the emergency aid that will be injected.

He defended the government’s stance on rotating shifts for workers, which has been heavily criticized by leftist opposition SYRIZA, stressing “there are no money-trees” and that in order for a business to pay its employees and suppliers, “there must be revenue.”

“We opted for work over unemployment, banning layoffs and suspending business obligations at the same time.”

At the same time, Archbishop Ieronymos asked Education and Religious Affairs Minister Niki Kerameus to allow church services behind closed doors.

Earlier this month, the government issued an order suspending all church services as part of its measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The order allowed churches to remain open but only for private prayer.

The archbishop said allowing services, which presumably would be broadcast to worshippers, would help the Church to fulfill its rule in providing spiritual support to people during difficult times.

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