Greece is one of the countries, which started with strict preventive measures early on. The timing of restrictions and lockdown has allowed the country to decrease the spread of coronavirus to the minimum. The country was also able to keep the number of deaths due to the COVID-19 in relatively low numbers compared to Italy or Spain.
Greece has started with measures as soon as the very first case appeared when a series of popular events together with some travels abroad has been banned. As the number of cases started to increase, all schools have been closed on 10th March. The measure has taken its place before Greece´s first coronavirus death. Following schools, government imposed a strict lockdown closing retails and services with exception for supermarkets and pharmacies. The country´s lockdown includes also strict movement ban allowing people to only move out of the house due to work, essential shopping, or help to relatives.
The citizens have to have a confirmation stating the purpose of their travel when leaving the house, the lockdown is being enforced by penalty fees in case of violation of the ban. The lockdown has originally been set to be imposed until 27th April, however, the measure has then been prolonged until 4th May. The lockdown measures apply also to all refugee camps within Greece, where the government separated the elderly and people in high-risk groups.
Greece closed its borders for non-EU citizens and flights to and from the country together with boat transport have been highly restricted. The country has kept the entry of EU citizens allowed, but a self-quarantine after coming from abroad is compulsory.
It is not obligatory to wear face masks in Greece. The government advised of the use of face-masks and gloves only for heals care staff, people who are infected or people whose job does not allow them to keep the recommended social distance of 1,5 metre. At the same time, the government also ordered tons of protective equipment (face masks, uniforms, gear) from China to keep the healthcare professionals safe in the first place, however, the healthcare staff announces it is not enough and a lot of the protective gear has not even reached hospitals. Healthcare professionals have also questioned and criticized the testing strategy, and they requested free access to tests. The government has provided a budget to private clinics, but the majority of the burden in testing lays on the National Centre for Blood Sampling.
Greece is also slowly considering easing the restrictions, whereas from 4th May the lockdown should be slowly eased in waves in one-week intervals. The restrictions have already decreased in Judiciary and should continue with small stores and services.
Despite the slow easing of measures, the country´s economy will be affected significantly. The economists are still predicting what will follow the lockdown for a country, where seasonal tourism is one of the great sources of income for many people. As much as there are currently discussions about the extent to which the economy will be affected, the government has introduced protective measures when it comes to the economic situation of the citizens directly affected by the lockdown. The citizens, who are directly affected will receive EUR 800 benefit from the state to compensate for the lacking income and at the same time, the companies were asked to avoid lay off of people, with a promise of an additional fund if they will avoid lay off.
Written by Michaela Greňová, April 2020.