ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s prime minister says the country’s retail sector might begin to gradually reopen next week, if the scientists advising the government on the coronavirus pandemic recommend it is safe to do so today.
Speaking in Parliament Friday during a debate on the government’s handling of the pandemic, Kyriakos Mitsotakis also said fines for violating measures imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus will increase to 500 euros, from the current 300 euros.
Lockdown restrictions were imposed nationwide in Greece in early November to tackle a surge in coronavirus infections, shutting down restaurants, bars, cafes, retail stores, schools, entertainment venues and anything not considered an essential business.
Primary schools and kindergartens reopened this week, but high school lessons are being held online only. People are allowed to leave their homes only for a limited number of specific reasons, and must send a telephone text message to authorities or carry a self-declaration in order to do so.
Violating the current lockdown restrictions is punishable by a 300 euro fine, which Mitsotakis said will increase to 500 euros.
Greece currently has had a total of just under 150,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 5,387 deaths since the start of the pandemic in this country of about 11 million people.
Mitsotakis said the pressure on the country's health system is beginning to ease, with more than 400 intensive care unit beds now free, allowing for restrictive measures to be gradually relaxed.
The panel of scientists advising the government on the pandemic is expected to make recommendations on next steps which are to be announced in a televised news conference Friday evening.
One option for the partial reopening retail stores as of Monday is a system of purchases by appointment, or customers picking up purchases from stores after having placed the orders online or by telephone, a system that was used in December in the run-up to the Christmas holidays.