Officials expect a difficult first two months in the new year for the government’s fortunes, followed by better times ahead, as a critical mass of the population is vaccinated and funds from the European Union’s recovery fund flow in.
But this scenario is by no means guaranteed and a number of factors could still trip up the conservative government.
At Maximos Mansion, site of the prime minister’s office, officials believe the situation is manageable. As they say, despite pressure, the national health system has held up in the face of the pandemic and there are fiscal reserves to help businesses and individuals in need. Also, the government takes heart from recent surveys that show it enjoys enough public goodwill in reserve to get through any expected difficulties.
Kathimerini understands that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis plans to “reboot” the government through a cabinet reshuffle. Sources refer to the end of the first phase of vaccinations as a likely timeline.
Even though any prediction about the course of the pandemic is risky, there are concerns of a new rise in infections and deaths during January. This means that no relaxation can be allowed during the holidays. Government officials are saying that any reopening of retail outlets and, even more so, of restaurants, cafes and bars, on January 8, when the current lockdown officially ends, is highly unlikely. The same sources tell Kathimerini than an effort will be made to reopen schools, especially elementary schools and kindergartens.
Another concern is a possible delay in the provision of anti-coronavirus vaccines. At present, the government expects the bulk of the vaccination to be done in February and, given that two doses are required, there will be no visible results until March.
It is obvious that, despite every effort to prop up the economy, some businesses will shut down permanently and layoffs will result. Sources in close contact with the prime minister say that it is highly likely that the 7.5 billion euros allocated in the budget to counter the pandemic’s economic effects will all be spent in the spring.
There are also other everyday issues that could pose obstacles, such as delays in paying back disputed pension cuts and public transport problems, not to mention unpredictable developments due to outside factors, such as Turkey.