The coronavirus pandemic is subsiding, but the war is not won yet, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised message on Monday evening, thanking the Greek people for their trust and discipline and calling on them to continue to respect restrictive measures.
In a brief but succinct message, the premier warned that losses in lives would have been greater if the government had followed any other policy. He said he will persist in the policy dictated by medical and other specialists in the field so that life may return to normalcy gradually. “Above all, we will continue for a long time to protect older people and all those suffering from serious and chronic illnesses,” he said.
Care for unemployed
From the very start, he noted, the government took measures to support incomes and allocated over 14 billion euros to support workers and businesses, and is also accessing another 10 billion euros in liquidity and European funding. “Already, 750,000 workers are collecting the supplement of 800 euros,” he said, “while nearly 200,000 unemployed people got an extension of their benefits. In more than 500,000 businesses, all tax and insurance obligations have been suspended, while 85,000 scientists have signed up for subsidized online trainings.”
He also announced that 155,000 of long-term unemployed would receive an emergency supplement of 400 euros.
At the same time, Mitsotakis warned that the economy would face a recession in 2020, as a repercussion from the pandemic, but that recovery would be strong in 2021. “The recession will be great, but the recovery could be much greater in 2021.” The burden of the crisis will be shared in a fair manner, he asserted, “so that everyone shares in the blast of growth that will follow.”
In addition, he spoke of a National Health System being built under emergency pandemic conditions. “In just five weeks, things were accomplished that had not been done in decades,” he said, and reiterated his goal of increasing the number of beds in intensive care units of hospitals to approach the EU average. This will help in the likelihood that the pandemic returns in the winter, he underlined, while he also noted the preparedness includes procedures such as prescription writing which have moved online.
Greeks will have a different attitude toward each other after the pandemic and will appreciate each other more, especially the people at the front lines of the disease, he said. “This will be the face of a future Greece, of wellbeing and solidarity.”
Mitsotakis said that the pandemic had contributed to dismantling decades-old myths and proved that the state should be evaluated on the basis of its effectiveness, not remain on party politics but to encompass everyone. The Greek institutions like parliament are still working despite restrictions, he stressed, and Greece after the pandemic must be a revived country.
“The crisis may hurt us but it will have armed us also with valuable experiences in order to buld a stronger and more modern state,” Mitsotakis said, calling on the people to continue observing the restrictions in order to think strategically of the future. After drawing a parallel between Easter Week, he said that persistence and courage will lead the country to a resurrection.
Nearly 150,000 long-term unemployed people will receive an emergency supplement of 400 euros, government sources said on Monday evening, following the PM’s message which included the news.
“The government cares for all Greeks,” the sources said, elaborating on the measure. Training programs for unemployed people include the following: new 12-month contract positions for 8,500 people aged 55-67; an eight-month community service program at cities and regions for 36,500 unemployed starting in May (including single parents); and new programs in May addressed to another 100,000 unemployed people.
This, the sources said, was in addition to two-month extensions to unemployment benefits that ended between January and March. Unemployment benefits ending in April will also be extended by another two months, they said.