ATHENS - Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced a three-week nationwide lockdown on Thursday as part of measures to contain the further spread of the novel coronavirus.
"I opt to take drastic measures sooner rather than later. I will not put the lives of our citizens at risk," the Greek prime minister stated in an address broadcast live on public broadcaster ERT.
He explained that he took this decision due to the exponential growth of COVID-19 cases in the last week.
"We saw nearly 10,000 cases in five days. We saw a significant increase in hospital admissions, in patients in ICUs, a bad ratio of admissions and discharges," he said.
The lockdown, the second of its kind since the start of the pandemic, will take effect from 6:00 am local time Saturday, he said.
Under the lockdown, all unnecessary movement of people is prohibited. Citizens will be required to fill in an application and notify authorities by email or SMS on their movements strictly to and from work, to purchase food or medicine, to visit a doctor or a person that requires care. They will be allowed to exercise alone or with a second person, or walk a dog.
The kindergartens and primary schools will remain open, while secondary schools will close and introduce distance learning.
Mitsotakis said that the Greek government is going to support citizens who will be affected by the new lockdown.
"The country has over 37 billion euros of cash reserves and nobody will be left behind. Our priority is the most vulnerable ones," he stressed.
The employees that will be furloughed in November will receive 800 euros in early December instead of 534 euros, in addition to their Christmas bonus. Additionally, all unemployment benefits that ended in September and December will be extended by two months. Finally, a one-off 400-euro benefit will be given to the long-term unemployed that no longer receive benefits.
Infectious diseases Professor Sotirios Tsiodras, a member of the committee of experts advising the Greek Health Ministry on the management of the COVID-19 challenge, presented the epidemiological data that prompted the decision for a full nationwide lockdown in Greece.
"The virus is moving at a very high speed, with a very significant transmission in recent days," he said.
Tsiodras warned that the healthcare system will be under more pressure in the coming days, and that hospital admissions will not be confined to the elderly.