NEWS

Three-stage plan in the cards for easing restrictions

STAVROS PAPANTONIOU, COSTIS P. PAPADIOCHOS

TAGS: Politics, Coronavirus

With Greece having received widespread plaudits for being one of a handful of countries to curb the coronavirus pandemic relatively effectively, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is on expected to present a plan on Monday or, more likely, Tuesday, for gradually easing those restrictions.

In a speech to the nation, Mitsotakis is expected to provide details of a three-phase scheme that aims to restore a significant section of the country’s social and economic life by the end of June. 

The initiative will likely involve interventions along the way depending on the evolution of the pandemic, with the possibility of restrictions that are eased being reimposed if experts deem that to be necessary. 

The three phases are to begin in early May, late May and mid-June, with rising temperatures in summer expected to slow the pandemic. 

The first phase will involve the opening of small retail stores and hair salons. In parallel, authorities may abolish part or all of the system whereby citizens are obliged to send an SMS to a government number, citing their reason for leaving the house. 

The reopening of cafes and restaurants will come at a later stage, with businesses to operate initially only with tables outdoors and set at a safe distance from each other.

Schools will open gradually, probably from the second week of May, starting with senior high pupils who are sitting university entrance exams in June. A full reopening of all schools is being carefully considered as it must coincide with a return to work for parents as grandparents who often serve the role of child minder are a high-risk group for Covid-19. 

Another concern is public transport, with authorities mulling the obligatory use of face masks for commuters and restrictions to passenger numbers. Services may be increased at rush hour to ensure commuters are served. 

As for the crucial tourism sector, hotels will open in two phases: year-round hotels in early June and seasonal hotels in late June. 

Greece is hoping to secure around 20 billion euros in European Union funding to address the repercussions of the pandemic on its economy.

During a teleconference with EU leaders last Thursday, Mitsotakis underlined the need for the urgent establishment of a “huge” recovery fund and called for the provision of grants rather than loans to EU member-states.

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