Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ address to the people regarding the pandemic and the protection of public health

My fellow citizens,

A short while ago I received note of the recommendation of the experts’ committee. I would like to personally announce the decision on the new measures and explain the reasons that led us to it.

Almost a year has passed since the outbreak of the pandemic. Greece, along with a few countries in northern Europe, has so far effectively resisted the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic. This is evidenced by official European data that rank Greece 23rd in losses among the 27 member states. It is also confirmed by composite indices monitored by our Scientific Committee.

We know however that Covid strikes may occur suddenly and proceed at an exponential rate. Like the fire that spreads fast and destructively. Look at what happened in Portugal. This is why, in view of such a dynamic phenomenon, we opted for the regular overview and flexible implementation of measures, depending on the real situation.

We chose targeted measures with fast reflexes, while also considering the accumulated pressure brought about by the constraints and the need we all have to return to normality. After all, both the economy and society drew a big breath of fresh air by remaining open for two weeks and then closed for another two, instead of being shut for four weeks.

Our objective is to always be one step ahead from the virus. This strategy was effective during January’s lockdown.

But today danger once again appears before us. Not in the form of thousands of cases and deaths, like in other European countries. But through two facts that worry us greatly. On the one hand, the rise of hospitalizations in Attica, where healthcare units are gradually filling up. On the other hand, the mutations of the virus seem to increase its transmissibility. We could wait a few more days, but the alarm has been sounded and we have learned to act in order to prevent rather than follow the problem, in order to save lives. Healthy Greeks are the prerequisite for Greece to progress. All of us must now stand against the final attack of the virus, before the final victory of the vaccination. Because it is certain that we will regain the lost ground tomorrow if we overcome the last obstacles without losses today. We know that we will be in a much better place as of April. But now we must forestall the threat!

So, taking into account the new data, I take responsibility for the additional measures needed to safeguard our public health.

Starting the day after tomorrow, on Thursday, and until February 28, strengthened restrictive measures will take effect in Attica. This means that all forms of retail will close and from now on all levels of education will operate through remote learning, with the exception of special education that will continue to function through physical presence in the classrooms. The new measures will be specified tomorrow by the competent officials.

My fellow citizens,

The experience from the first wave of the pandemic, as well as the lockdown after the Christmas holidays, shows that the sooner restrictions are implemented, the faster they are lifted. And that the more drastic they are, the greater their effect. This is the reason behind my current choices: we need to halt the Covid-19 surge before it spreads, by reducing overall mobility. And we need to give time to the Health System, all the while vaccinations proceed quickly.

I know what all this means for the economy. For shopkeepers who keep their stores closed and professionals who leave their jobs. For workers and for the unemployed. I will say it again though: without good health there is no economy. There are no good customers without healthy citizens. After all, a two-week effort now could bring about sooner the full reopening of the market. And as long as the crisis lasts, the state will continue to support households and businesses. It is already working in that direction, scrapping the rent due by businesses that will remain closed in March, as well as prolonging the reduced VAT rates for specific goods. With the 6th and 7th rounds of the Refundable Advance payment and the funded furlough schemes. But also with the extension of unemployment benefits and the suspension of payments to the state and insurance funds.

I am well-aware, however, of society’s anguish. I feel the long-running fatigue. The irritation. Especially among our schoolchildren, who become estranged from their natural environment, their school. I also have a kid at school and I know. I fully understand the reaction of the citizens: “Will you shut us down again?” they ask me every now and then. There is no “you”, plural, here. “There is only a single culprit”, I reply. It is the coronavirus, whom we must defeat. Drawing strength from what we have accomplished and faith from what we can achieve. Because whatever sacrifices we are called to make now, it is up to us to make them the final ones.

In our common effort there are errors, confusion and misses. But we must not lose sight of the big picture. Today I am more convinced than ever that the epilogue of this unprecedented adventure is already being written.

My fellow citizens,

I urge you to remain united and respond with maturity to what life itself asks from us: to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Especially now that the rays of light from the vaccines illuminate the coming day. Soon we will reach 500,000 vaccinations. We rank among the best in Europe in terms of pace. While the elderly and health professionals are receiving the second dose. vaccinations are about to start for other groups of citizens as well. Vaccine deliveries will also increase rapidly in the near future.

I am not going to hide: over the next two months the restrictions might develop similarly to the opening-and-closing pattern of a fan, depending on the alarm level. What will happen each time depends on us. But this is also the final mile towards freedom. The state has the plan, so that by the end of spring the most vulnerable Greeks will be protected. The goal is to reach that moment while prosperous and strong. And a big step on this path of hope is the success of the measures that will be applied from the day after tomorrow. We will stick to them and we shall emerge victorious!