By Agence France-Presse
Greece said Monday it hoped to be able to lift some COVID-19 restrictions next month — if the public respects the current lockdown until then.
“April will be the hardest and most decisive month,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters in a conference call briefing.
“By staying home in April, we will be able in May to enjoy the first results of our responsible attitude,” said Petsas.
Whereas neighbouring Italy has been the European country hardest hit by the new coronavirus, Greece has to date come off comparatively lightly.
Up to Monday evening, the country — despite suffering badly from the effects of a decade-long financial crisis — has officially reported 1,755 confirmed coronavirus cases and 79 fatalities.
However deputy minister for civil protection Nikos Hardalias warned against over-optimism.
Giving Monday’s latest update on fatalities and cases, Hardalias cautioned that “any discussion on the gradual lifting of (lockdown) measures is premature”.
Greece took strict measures to stem the pandemic after the first death was reported in the country on March 12.
Schools, archaeological sites, museums, cafes, bars and hotels gradually closed thereafter before a general lockdown was imposed and extended until April 27.
Petsas said the “strict and difficult measures” had helped Greece limit the virus’s spread, adding that, come May, the country could hope for a “return to normality” if it avoided “mistakes which could compromise” its efforts so far.
The lockdown will deprive Greeks of their traditional Orthodox Easter festivities on April 19, the country’s most popular religious holiday.
Petsas said the government is considering a church proposal for Easter services to be held behind closed doors.
Athens also hopes to find a way of maintaining the Holy Light ceremony from Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre — by tradition the “Holy Fire” is taken from the church to other Orthodox communities across the world.
Petsas was critical, however, of worshippers who secretly tried to attend church services over the weekend despite the lockdown.
“This phenomenon has nothing to do with faith but with fanaticism,” he said.
The Greek government also has to deal with preventing a coronavirus outbreak in camps hosting thousands of migrants in often dire conditions.
Athens quarantined two camps near Athens in recent days after around two dozen coronavirus cases were confirmed there.
“Efforts to protect migrants and refugees are intensified,” Petsas said. “Sanitary stations are being built, isolation areas are being created and exits are being restricted.”