Greek Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he will announce a new “action plan” today to help control the recent jump in infections, while adding that the regional units of Thessaloniki, Larissa and Rodopi will go into lockdown following localized spikes in coronavirus cases.
“As in the first phase, when we took action early on, we must take tougher measures again and earlier than other European countries to prevent the worst, save lives and reduce the pressure on the health system,” he told his ministers during a teleconference on Thursday.
He said the plan will be in place for one month.
The use of a mask will be mandatory indoors and outdoors for the three new regions entering the highest level of risk from the virus, while a curfew from 12.30 p.m. to 5 a.m. will take effect, along with a ban on movement outside the peripheral unit. All gatherings in public and private spaces will be suspended. But Mitsotakis said shops and schools will remain open.
“I will say again that our goal remains to avoid a universal lockdown, so we will proceed to further strengthen the targeted restrictions,” he told the cabinet, noting however that these policies must be implemented fully.
He said the next two weeks will be “crucial” and called on each ministry to ensure the implementation of the law, such as teleworking.
Mitsotakis said he believed Greece is 2 to three weeks behind other European countries in the development of the second wave of the pandemic.
Greece confirmed 1,211 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, of which 47 relate to known clusters and 35 were identified at entry points to the country, the National Public Health Organization (EODY) said.
EODY also confirmed another 12 deaths, bringing fatalities to a total of 615.
In a statement the same day, Deputy Civil Protection Minister for Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias said that the infection threat level for the regions of Larissa (central Greece), Thessaaloniki, and Rodopi (NE Greece) will be raised to 4, the highest alarm, as of 06:00 on Friday.
In addition, he said that the regions of Pella, Evros, Drama, Xanthi, Kilkis, Kavala, Pieria, Imathia and Chalkidiki – all in northern Greece – will rise to ‘orange’ alarm, or level 3, as of Friday. Messinia and Arcadia in the Peloponnese, he said, would be upgraded in alarm level 2 from level 1 (‘green’ to ‘yellow’).
Commenting on the rise in infections, the minister said that the average age of infected individuals and daily contact tracing data link these infections to entertainment, sports and other social crowding events.
The European Union will finance the transfer of patients across borders within the bloc to prevent hospitals from getting overwhelmed as Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations spike in the continent.
After a video conference of EU leaders to discuss the health crisis on Thursday, the head of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen said the EU executive had made available 220 million euros ($260 million) to move Covid-19 patients across borders.
“The spread of the virus will overwhelm our healthcare systems if we do not act urgently,” she said.
At the meeting leaders agreed to better coordinate efforts to battle the virus as infections in Europe exceeded 10 million, making the continent again the epicenter of the pandemic.
EU countries want to avoid divisions which dogged the 27-nation bloc at the beginning of the pandemic, when nations vied with each other to buy scarce medical equipment.
To better trace infections, von der Leyen said the EU would work for the quick validation at EU level of rapid antigen tests, which allow quicker results than the standard PCR (polymerase chain reaction) molecular kits.
The Commission is also intensifying its efforts to get potential vaccines against the new coronavirus.
“Europe will not surrender to religious fanaticism and intolerance,” Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said in a social media post on Thursday, expressing support for the French people in the wake of what is being treated as a religiously motivated deadly knife attack in the town of Nice.
Expressing “solidarity with the people of France and French President Emmanuel Macron over the terrorist attack in Nice,” Sakellaropoulou said in a Twitter post that Europe’s “common values are at risk.”
The Greek president’s message came after three people were killed by a lone assailant in Nice’s Notre-Dame Basilica on Thursday. Macron described the incident as an “Islamist terrorist attack.”
According to reports, the assailant, who was shot and taken into custody, has been identified as a 21-year-old Tunisian man who arrived in France at the start of the month via Lampedusa in Italy.
The Mayor of Athens Kostas Bakoyannis, lit the Omonia square fountain with the colors of the French flag and wrote on Facebook: “The city that gave birth to Democracy stands in solidarity with the country that gave to it its modern perspective”.
And the weather forecast…
Sunny in Attica with the temperature expected to reach a maximum of 24 degrees Celsius.