Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ address on the Coronavirus theat

My fellow citizens,
The world is now facing an unprecedented Public Health crisis. Our country has not been hit as hard as others, up to this day. But let us have no illusions: the hardest part is still ahead of us.
Under these circumstances, any sign of complacency is unacceptable. This is why we chose to adopt strict precautionary measures in a timely manner, to limit the spread of the virus. And we shall continue down this path of action.
Most people who get sick will have mild or no symptoms at all. However, some of our fellow citizens, especially the elderly and those with chronic illnesses, may need hospitalisation. We must, first and foremost, protect these groups.
Our goal is simple: to spread any serious outbreaks over time, so that patients will be able to receive the care they deserve from our hospitals.
We are already taking the necessary actions to safeguard Public Health. We are adding beds to public hospitals’ Intensive Care Units and deploy private clinic facilities throughout the country.
No infrastructure is redundant. Both public and private sectors are required to cooperate for the common good.
Implementing express procedures, we have employed 2,000 nurses and doctors under two-year contracts. The former will be effective early next week. And after the crisis, they will remain employed in the Public Health System.
As you know, yesterday I decided to shut down all educational institutions for 14 days. It was a difficult but necessary decision, which nevertheless will not jeopardise the academic year.
The Ministry of Education is ready to implement e-learning classes, starting from the third grade, and has developed plans of action for all educational levels.
It follows, naturally, that our children will have a lot of free time. So here’s my message to them: keep studying, meet in small groups and with good friends at home and exercise outdoors whenever possible. This is the best advice I can give. Avoid overcrowded areas where the virus can be transmitted more easily. And be careful around your grandparents. It is better to avoid meeting them, especially if you have the slightest symptom.
The Secretary General for Civil Protection will undertake the coordination of the efforts of the Government, the local Authorities, the Armed Forces and the Security Forces. The public sector will continue its operation as usual in the meantime, but it will also implement new tools, such as flexible working hours, video conferencing and teleworking. In this context, employees will remain active even if they have to stay away from work remotely for a while.
However, we can assure you that critical infrastructure and services do not – and will not – malfunction.
The economy will suffer a shock that was impossible to predict and for this reason the consequences should be constrained.
VAT and social security contributions for affected businesses have already been suspended. And as of today, we are introducing special leave allowance for working parents with children up to 15 years old, both in the public and private sector. The state will partially finance these measures, but this is a burden we must all share; the Sate, businesses and professionals alike.
Additional measures to support the sectors affected will be announced soon. We will stand next to businesses and professionals offering two-fold support, that is, providing liquidity and mitigating the effects of turnover reduction.
Finally, you are aware of the fact that, along with other European countries, I have asked for changes to the EU Stability and Growth Pact and budgetary targets, in order to finance extraordinary expenditure. I believe that this will be realised and that the European Union will do whatever it takes to promptly support its member states.
My dear fellow citizens,
It is true that, from my position as Prime Minister, I was called upon within a few weeks to face a major crisis that developed in two fronts. But life is full of surprises. Facing them requires determination, flexibility, quick decision making and bold moves.
We have successfully tackled the asymmetric threat of immigration. Because society came together under the Government’s self-evident choice to protect our borders. And the people tasked with this mission proved most worthy.
We will also tackle the threat against Public Health posed by the Coronavirus. After all, the faster the virus travels, the faster the vaccine and the treatment of the disease will be through to us, through the cooperation of the international scientific community. However, that moment should find most of us healthy!
The government will do what ever is necessary, however and wherever necessary -and often earlier than necessary. Believe me, though: no public measure can substitute individual responsibility. And in our open democratic societies, no central decision may be made, unless all citizens first concur.
Let us again recall some simple but valuable tips that should be firmly introduced to our routine, with the aim to protect our lives.
Starting today, let us all make personal hygiene an unconscious daily routine: we wash our hands frequently and thoroughly; we avoid touching our face; we stay at home when we have symptoms.
We also avoid gatherings in crowded spaces. We do not respond to handshakes and reduce physical contact. We will not appear rude, but responsible.
Above all, we protect the elderly and ill patients, who are threatened the most. We do not visit them often. And these groups should also reduce their activities. It will be for their own good and the good of those around them.
These measures are not a question of individual rights. Rather, they constitute a social duty and a message of conscious self-restraint, which primarily concerns the elderly and vulnerable groups, but also other citizens when they have symptoms.
We do not want to hurt ourselves and those we love.
My fellow citizens,
I conclude with a topic that has been the subject of extensive public debate. Personally, over the past days, I have felt a strong urge to rely on my faith and draw strength to stand up to the circumstances. I’m sure many of you felt the same way.
As Prime Minister, however, I have to listen to the scientists. What applies to public gatherings, also applies to our churches.
Today, it is not our religious faith that is challenged, but our faith in human health; the love for one’s neighbour, which is what Orthodoxy itself preaches.
That is why our religious duties must also be adapted to reality and carried out from home, to the extent possible, with the aim to limit large congregations. The Congregation of faithful, after all, is large.
I am looking forward to the support of the Church’s leadership in this common cause. But my institutional role requires me to be clear on the subject.
I know that faith often begins where science ends. But what we need to believe in right now is that we will be able to overcome this crisis. It will suffice for all of us to follow the instructions of doctors and scientists.
And this, while always keeping in mind that we are not only responsible for ourselves, but for friends and family, and all fellow Greeks beside us.