We are going through the last and most sensitive phase in the war against the coronavirus. I know there is great fatigue, but we have new allies on our side: vaccinations, self-tests and the improving weather, they make us feel confident that this unprecedented adventure is ending.
Given that time is on our side, we need visibility and perspective. A clear “roadmap” for the upcoming period. This is what I will be talking about today.
The pandemic seems to be leveling off in our country, although the number of cases is still high. The healthcare system, thanks to the self-sacrifice of our doctors and the nursing staff, is withstanding the pressure. The policy of gradual and controlled lifting of coronavirus restrictions is working. The positivity rate is subsiding, albeit slowly.
The most important thing, though, is that vaccines are effective and the “wall of immunity” is being built at a fast pace. The unfortunate fact is that, at present, the vast majority of intubated patients are people who had not been vaccinated.
I have said that our goal is to have a safe Easter and then a free summer. However, the former cannot undermine the latter. This is why we should not travel this Easter. There are still a lot of infected people in Attica and in the big cities. A large outflow of travelers engenders the risk of spreading the virus everywhere. And we know that hospitalization in the countryside is difficult. Therefore, we need to think not only of our holidays, but also of the health of our villagers and islanders.
I know that this may displease some. But it is the only option that fuses doctors’ reservations with the needs of our society and the economy. And, of course, it is the only option that will allow us to proceed to a greater opening of activities after Easter.
As long as there is no future resurgence of the virus, we can implement a timetable that features three benchmarks.
Firstly, on May 3 restaurants will reopen outdoors. The curfew will start later, at 11 pm. Tests will be mandatory for employees. The required distances must be maintained between seats and tables, and the well-known self-protection measures must be kept.
Secondly, on May 10 high schools and primary schools shall reopen, with the necessary self-tests for students, teachers and administrative staff, as well as all other protection measures in the classrooms.
Thirdly, we will open for tourism on May 15, with schemes for visitors who have been vaccinated or tested. As of May 15, all citizens will be able to travel beyond their immediate localities, while some cultural events will be permitted again.
We need to be careful and united in this process. The data at hand induces optimism, but it also requires discipline.
Given the prospect of lifting restrictions, fatigue is no longer an alibi for willful disregard of the rules. Those who carelessly gather in public plazas should, at last, stop. Although they are few in number compared to the millions who abide by the rules, they can cause harm to many, to themselves and others around them.
Let me go back to the most crucial matter: vaccinations. Despite the exceptional organization of the campaign, we have not yet reached the uptake that we wish for, especially with regard to the most vulnerable groups. However, the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines is proven every single day. It is tragic for people to lose their life when a vaccine could have saved them.
Let me call upon you once more, to ask you to shield your health with this great gift that science has given us. Danger does not lurk within the vaccine, it comes from the disease and the pain. Statistically speaking, we are more likely to have a car accident rather than experience a vaccine-related issue.
Starting on the Holy Week, we will begin vaccinating citizens over the age of 30. The process will be swift. Our objective is to build the wall of immunity even faster, throughout Greece. At the same time, the distribution of self-tests all over the country is being tripled. The Minister of Health will offer more details shortly.
All this brings us even closer to a summer of greater freedom and prosperity. Let us believe in ourselves. Let’s welcome this summer safely, united and optimistic.