Greece to Go Into Nationwide Lockdown Saturday, Premier Says
(Bloomberg) -- Greece is set to impose a new national lockdown, joining countries from France to the U.K. that are resorting once again to broad shutdowns as coronavirus cases soar.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the country will begin a three-week national lockdown from 6 a.m. Saturday, after a prolonged rise in infections and an increase in the number of patients in intensive care.
“If we continued to see the same rate of increase in cases as in the past week we’d have thousands in our hospitals,” Mitsotakis said in a nationally televised address. “I choose to take drastic measures sooner rather than later, I can’t take responsibility for endangering the lives of our fellow citizens.”
Greek supermarkets, pharmacies, kindergartens and primary schools will remain open, while high schools and secondary schools will close. All other categories of businesses and activities will shut down, the premier said.
Greece will also re-institute a text message-based system used in last spring’s lockdown to give citizens permission to leave their homes.
European governments, which for months resisted imposing fresh lockdowns, have been forced to take action in recent weeks and impose strict curbs on hospitality, retail and travel. They’re pumping in more aid to help businesses, but the risk remains that things might get even worse.
Mitsotakis, like other European leaders, had sought to spare his country from the economic effects of a lockdown this fall. The European Commission sees Greece’s economy contracting 9% in 2020.
Greece recorded a new daily record high of 2,646 new virus cases Wednesday, while the occupancy rate of total intensive-care units currently stands at 69%. The total number of infections in the country of around 11 million people is now 46,892.
Mitsotakis on Thursday also announced further economic support for workers and the unemployed and said a special unemployment benefit will be extended for two months.
Greece’s new restrictions “are for three weeks,” the premier said Thursday. “Let’s give ourselves a chance for a relatively normal December, and something that will look like the holiday celebrations of other years.”
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