Further reopening shelved for now
Seeking to nip any sense of complacency in the bud, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis sought on Wednesday to put a brake on speculation regarding the reopening of ski resorts and restaurants and the liberalization of long-distance travel during a speech to Parliament.
- Scrap collectors and other pedestrians cross a road in central Athens, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. [Thanassis Stavrakis/AP]
Making extensive references to the pandemic, Mitsotakis stressed, among other things, that “the next priority” for the government is opening secondary schools and that “other activities can wait a little longer” to restart, in line with the government’s strategy not to rush matters and send the wrong message to the public. Current estimates suggest it will take about another month of strict adherence to restrictive measures before Greece is out of the woods.
Basically, the government’s strategy is to continue on its path of caution until the spring, when the positive effects of the vaccination campaign begin to kick in and the weather improves. Working in tandem with health experts, the government wants to open each area of society that has been closed down separately, in order to assess the result before the next step, one or two weeks later.
This way, if there is a setback in the epidemiological picture, the cause will be known, allowing for an immediate rectification. For example, if retail and schools were opened together, it would be difficult to ascertain where new outbreaks came from.
In terms of the pandemic’s management, the vaccination campaign is of pivotal significance as it seems, not through the fault of Greece, to be moving at a slower pace, making the return to normalcy even more tenuous.
The issue will be raised at Thursday’s European Union leaders’ summit to discuss the pandemic, including the immediate approval of vaccines which are in the final stage of licensing, with the AstraZeneca jab first in line. The other issue topping the agenda will be to ensure the compliance of Pfizer to its commitments to the European Union on vaccine deliveries in the first quarter of 2021.
According to the latest information, 90,000 vaccinations had been carried out up until Wednesday in Greece, and the next age group (80-84 years old) is about to begin their jabs.
At the same time, 65 health centers and 144 new vaccination points are being added, while from February until mid-March, four new large vaccination centers will enter the fray, serving 20,000 people in Athens and Thessaloniki.