Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has announced a three-week nationwide lockdown beginning Saturday to prevent a surge in COVID-19 infections from overwhelming the nation’s health care system.
At a news conference in Athens Thursday, Mitsotakis said he chose to take the “drastic measures” sooner rather than later. He said other European countries waited until the virus was out of control to shut things down, and he did not want to “put people’s lives at risk.”
Mitsotakis said the exponential increase in cases over recent days made him fear waiting any longer would put “unbearable” pressure on the nation’s healthcare system.
The prime minister said he also hoped if Greece could slow this “second wave” of the virus, the nation could have a somewhat more normal Christmas holiday season.
The lockdown takes effect at 6:00 a.m. Saturday and runs until November 30. Like a similar lockdown in March, all non-essential retail businesses will be closed and residents will need a permit to go outdoors. Supermarkets, health care services, and pharmacies are considered essential.
Mitsotakis said the main difference between this lockdown and the last one is that elementary schools will remain open, while high schools will conduct remote learning.
The prime minister said the government has more than $43 billion set aside to soften the economic effects of the pandemic.
Greece reported a record 2,646 new cases and 18 deaths Wednesday, bringing total confirmed cases to just under 47,000 and deaths to 673 in the country of nearly 11 million people.
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