My fellow citizens,
A while ago, I instructed the relevant Ministers to take the action required to impose a full lockdown, that is a ban on unnecessary transport and movement of people throughout the country, effective from Monday, 23rd March at 6a.m.
It is maybe the last step, one that must be taken promptly and not in vain; because we do not count time in days anymore, but in hours. Therefore, bold initiatives are promptly required.
The State, according to the Constitution, must “ensure the health of Greek citizens” and intervene when the exercise of individual freedom exceeds its constitutional purpose and poses a threat to society.
When the individuals demonstrate lack of responsibility, we must secure the public interest. In the name of the common good, I proceed with this decision, to protect Public Health and everything we have achieved so far in this area. I have already informed the President of the Hellenic Republic and the party leaders on my decision.
Therefore, as of tomorrow morning, movement in public is only allowed for those going to or returning from work, shopping for food and medication, visiting a doctor or a person in need of care, exercising either individually or in pairs, or walking one’s pet. Finally, for those who are living in urban areas, one-way travel is allowed to their permanent place of residence.
Anyone going out of their homes must carry their ID card or passport. They must also certify their reason for movement: Either by their employer’s statement – if they are employees – or by a sworn statement – if they are freelancers or self-employed. We have already taken action to enable citizens, in a simple and user-friendly manner, to obtain this form either online, by phone message or even fill it in manually.
The Hellenic Police, Municipal Police, Hellenic Coast Guard and National Transparency Authority will monitor the implementation of this measure. Violators will be fined EUR 150 for each violation.
Members of the Greek Government and Parliament will be excluded from these restrictions. Public officials and all staff of Health services, Civil Protection, Law Enforcement and Armed Forces will also be excluded. All the above will be addressed shortly in detail by the competent Ministers.
My fellow citizens,
Unfortunately, one person dies every two minutes in Italy. This situation is only getting worse throughout the world. Therefore, it is my duty to prevent such a tragedy from hitting our country. We must not get to the point where we will have to choose who lives and who dies. My choice is one and only: the lives and health of the Greek people!
I would like to thank the vast majority of people who have understood the threat and stayed at home. By emptying the streets and squares, we are banishing this danger. By staying in our homes, we are turning them into life bunkers.
However, I cannot allow a frivolous few to undermine the safety of most. The frivolous few can harm thousands of responsible people. Therefore, as we are ahead of a tough battle, we must shut any and all backdoors to this threat. This is the purpose of the ban on movement effective as of tomorrow.
From the very first moment of this health crisis, the government informed the citizens with sincerity. We promptly organised the health facilities throughout Greece, we hired additional nursing staff and procured hard-to-find medical equipment. We restructured public services.
And, in just a few days, we announced three major packages to support workers and companies. Meanwhile, we securely guard our borders and the borders of Europe. The state has therefore proven that it has always been omnipresent. But this is the moment when the individual and the public interest is one and the same: This is the Greek people’s moment!
The coronavirus does not make distinctions based on countries or nations, income or social status. It is a threat to people, whoever they are, wherever they live. Against the virus, we are all equal;
Except that some people are more vulnerable – our grandparents, our parents, people suffering from chronic illnesses, who amid crisis also need help from our National Health System. The Greeks still get sick from other diseases and we should care for them as well.
Yesterday, Infectious Diseases Specialist and Chief Scientist for the Greek CDC Dr Tsiodras choked with emotion while speaking about the responsibility of young people toward the elderly. So let this emotional reaction of a man who carries a huge burden, with a clear mind and remarkable dignity, become a wake-up call.
This is the time for us all to stand tall and rewrite a new social contract. Our first commitment is breaking the chain of transmission: each and every one of should cease being a link in the chain of transmission to our fellow citizens.
My fellow citizens,
The government is standing tall before our duty, reaching out to every corner of this country. But I will say it once more: The greatest weapon against our invisible enemy is our personal behaviour: We do not go out without particular reason. We stay at home. We do not offend with our attitude those who fight day and night in hospitals to protect our own health.
Staying at home is essentially the most profound demonstration of our collective duty. It is not confinement; it is a demonstration of respect to our fellow human beings.
It is proof that our social fabric is coherent and conscientious; and that together we can lift the burden of our country. We will have to muster every last ounce of courage and patience to overcome this crisis.
I would like to conclude by quoting US President Theodore Roosevelt, whose words are undoubtedly fitting for those who already fight against this threat and will be called to work even harder in the coming days: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause.”
On behalf of the Greek men and women, I thank them; and I ask all of you to show them your gratitude with your everyday behaviour. As individual wishes succumb before collective will, our country’s future lies in our hands. We are all Greece. Let’s protect our home! So that tomorrow may find us healthier, stronger and more hopeful.
We do not move outside, and we are giving a united, nationwide response to the pandemic.