NEWS

New measures announced as lockdown threat looms

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This weekend is billed as pivotal to the question of whether additional, more stringent measures are needed to contain the spread of the coronavirus, including an outright ban on the movement of people. 

According to reports, if people comply with the guidelines issued by the government and the National Organization for Public Health (EODY) not to make unnecessary movements, the measure of a general lockdown will be shelved. Otherwise, the measure will, reports said, be inevitable.

For his part, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made another public intervention on Friday via video on Twitter, demanding that people help break the chain of contagion by showing individual responsibility and following the strict guidelines. Mitsotakis had earlier convened an emergency meeting of government officials which led to the announcement of restrictions on ferry travel to the islands after what was considered by authorities to be unjustified travel on Friday. A day earlier, Mitsotakis had stressed the dangers that the Greek islands face due to a lack of medical infrastructure. 

Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said that from 6 a.m. Saturday, only permanent residents of Greek islands will be allowed to return, adding that the transport of supplies will be allowed to continue. Also, as of Saturday, private boats of all kinds will be banned from departing or docking at Greek ports, he said. Hardalias further announced stricter regulations for the operation of supermarkets, noting that as of Monday stores will have to keep to a limit of one customer per 15 square meters. Street markets will be closed Saturday and, as of Monday, will be obliged to operate under new rules, reducing the area they cover by 50 percent and ensuring that stalls are set up at least 5 meters away from each other.

Meanwhile, Greek Health Ministry representative Sotiris Tsiodras, who held a joint press conference with Hardalias, announced 31 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 495. He said that another four people had died over the past 24 hours, with the official death toll on Friday standing at nine. There was another unconfirmed death later on Friday evening.

Eighty-five of the positive cases are of unknown source, Tsiodras said, adding that 90 were receiving treatment in hospital, with 20 in critical condition. Nineteen people have been released from hospital following treatment.

Both Hardalias and Tsiodras underlined the importance of people staying at home, responding to reports of an increasing number of Athenians abandoning the capital for their villages.

“Once and for all, let us stay home,” Hardalis said. “It is so important that we do not all spill out to our villages,” he said, adding that although it is a relatively small minority doing this, “it is criminal.” “It is not an issue of [state] control, it is an issue of responsibility toward society,” he said.

In a related development, three flights carrying 400 Greeks from London were due to land in Greece on Friday, the Health Ministry said, noting that all would be checked for coronavirus symptoms and obliged to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.

Meanwhile, the Hellenic Police (ELAS) is to begin car and motorcycle patrols in Athens and other big cities, broadcasting pre-recorded messages via loudspeaker to remind citizens that public gatherings of more than 10 people are banned. There are also plans for the same message to be recorded in English and Arabic to assist with foreigners or migrants living in the city center. There will be a strong police presence in parks and squares, while picnics have been banned.