Greek government unveils plan for easing restrictions
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday unveiled a long-awaited plan for the gradual lifting of restrictive measures imposed last month to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
In a televised speech that came 37 days after the government imposed a public lockdown to curb the pandemic, Mitsotakis thanked Greeks for adhering to the restrictions, noting that the country had become “an example” for the whole world. However, he said, social distancing and the use of masks must “become second nature” as “there can be no return to the pre-coronavirus reality.”
“This is not the epilogue of our ordeal but the continuation,” Mitsotakis said, adding that the guiding principle will be “stay safe.” The state apparatus, including the health service, is prepared for the next phase, he said, adding that the improved weather is expected to help curb the pandemic. A panel of experts is to review the plan every 24 hours.
The first phase of the plan is to begin on May 4 when some retail stores, including bookshops and hair salons, will reopen, with others to follow suit later in the month.
Also from May 4, citizens will no longer have to send an SMS or carry a document citing their reason for leaving their home but a ban on leaving the region where they live will remain in place.
Cafes and restaurants will be allowed to reopen from June 1, but only with outdoor seating, as will shopping malls and year-round hotels.
From May 4, churches will reopen for individual prayer, but with restrictions on the number of worshippers allowed inside the church, while services will be permitted to resume from May 17. Mitsotakis thanked Archbishop Ieronymos and the Greek clergy “for their understanding and cooperation.”
As for schools, they are to open gradually, starting on May 11 with students of senior high.
More details about the government’s plan were presented by the deputy minister to the prime minister, Akis Skertsos, who announced the creation of a permanent monitoring and intervention mechanism, “an observatory,” to combat the pandemic, record cases, and measure the risk index with the help of technological applications.
This will allow for the rapid implementation of measures, depending on the level of risk, he said.