Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced a ban on public movement as of 06:00 on Monday, introducing the strictest measure so far to stem the spread of the global coronavirus pandemic in Greece.
“Bold and fast initiatives are necessary,” Mitsotakis said, warning that “time is no longer counted in days, but in hours.”
Explaining that the ban aims to stop the few irresponsible people who endanger others – a reference to travellers to islands and elsewhere where there are no coronavirus cases – he said that “the state is obligated by the constitution to care for the health of its citizens and to intervene when the exercise of individual freedom surpasses its constitutional purpose and threatens society. And when a person proves to lack responsibility, then public interest must be safeguarded.”
Exempted from the rules are people going to and from work; going to buy food or medicine; visiting a doctor or a person who needs care; and those who either exercise solo or in pairs; or are taking their pet out for a walk. Also exempted will be state officials, security and medical personnel, and staff from civil protection, health services, security forces and the armed forces.
Whoever circulates must carry with them police ID or a passport at all times. They must also verify their purpose of movement through employer papers verifying they have to go to work or by filling out a personal-cognizance document which they can download from the web or through a phone call, or fill out by hand.
Checking circulation will be the Hellenic Police, the Municipal Police, the Port Authority and the National Transparency Authority. Violators will be assessed a 150-euro fee for every violation.
“In Italy, one person dies every two minutes,” the prime minister said, “and the situation is getting worse throughout the world. It is my duty not to allow our country to go through such a trial.” Referring to the tragic choices of doctors running out of hospital beds in Italy, he said, “We must not get to the point where we decide who will live and who will die. I only choose one thing, the live and health of Greeks.”
Mitsotakis thanked “the vast majority of citizens who understood the threat and are staying home. “I cannot however allow some thoughtless people to undermine the safety of the many – because a few irresponsible people may harm thousands of those who are responsible,” he noted, saying that the new measures would shut the last door to the disease.
He said the president of the Republic and party leaders had all been informed.
Clarifications are pending at a meeting of ministers at 19:00, where details will be announced, he said.
Closing his address, Mitsotakis called on the public to remain united and to “give a pandemic response to a pandemic”. He praised all medical staff fighting the disease by citing US President Theodore Roosevelt: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause…”