Greece seeks way to save islands from coronavirus

All passenger flights to and from the country stop on Sunday night

Starting from Saturday, 6 a.m, only permanent residents and supply trucks will be allowed to travel to the Aegean islands. The measure was announced on Friday by Shipping Minister Giannis Plakiotakis in a bid to ban the unnecessary movement of people within the country and halt the spread of the rampaging coronavirus.

"The smaller the island where one believes will travel to for protection, the more difficult, if not impossible, one's care will be if this person becomes ill," Plakiotakis said adding that the measure had been requested by local authorities on the islands. The government tried to stress the perils of leaving cities for the islands and countryside to escape the spreading coronavirus epidemic, with the PM and other officials warning Greeks to stay where they are.

“Let’s break the chain of coronavirus contagion. Let’s show personal responsibility and strictly follow the guidelines. We do not congregate. We do not move. We keep our distance. We stay home!,” PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a post on Twitter. His message also included a video reminding citizens to restrict their movements outside the home to essential places such as the supermarket or the bank, for example, while stressing that while walking outdoors is permitted, this should be done alone or in twos.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas also sent a terse message on Friday evening, saying that choosing to move temporarily to the islands or the countryside constitutes “antisocial behaviour.” “We all need to understand that we may be infected with the virus without showing any symptoms. And in the meantime, we will be spreading the virus to communities across the Greece,” he said.

In yet another measure PM Mitsotakis announced the suspension of all passenger flights to and from Greece starting on Sunday night, 22 March. The decision will exclude specific cargo flights, especially the ones related to essential products. 

Meanwhile, the administration of the Mount Athos monastic community in northern Greece took the unprecedented decision to prohibit admission to pilgrims and other visitors in order to safeguard its residents from the coronavirus epidemic. The issuing of admission passes from the monastic community’s offices in Ouranoupoli and Thessaloniki will be suspended, until at least 30 March, when the decision will be reviewed.

Separately, the police already started car and motorcycle patrols with loudspeakers in Athens and other big cities to inform citizens that public gatherings of more than ten people are banned. The pre-recorded messages will call on those violating the measure to comply. Authorities are planning to also record the message in English and Arabic to assist with foreigners or migrants living in the city centre.  On Thursday, the measure was tested in the port town of Patras, where a police car was sent on patrol to urge residents to stay at home

So far, Greeks are accepting the measures philosophically. They will continue to drink their favourite coffee helleniko, not in tavernas, but at home. They will continue to stroll in parks and enjoy good weather, but will do this in smaller groups as crowding of more than 10 people is forbidden since Thursday and punished with a 1,000 euro fine. And they will pray all this to end by early June in order to be able to welcome tourists for the summer and not to return to the dark austerity period which the country managed to finally end only last year.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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