Policy responses for Greece - HSRM


Policy responses for Greece

1.2 Physical distancing


The coronavirus pandemic first appeared in Greece on February 26, 2020. Following the confirmation of the first three cases in Greece, on February 27 all festivals in the country were initially cancelled, and by March 10 a total of 89 cases had been confirmed in the country, mainly related to people who had travelled to Italy and a group of pilgrims who had travelled to Israel and Egypt, as well as their contacts. Health and state authorities issued precautionary guidelines and recommendations, while measures up to that point were taken locally and included the closure of schools and the suspension of cultural events in the affected areas (particularly Ilia, Achaea and Zakynthos) – see below. However, on March 10, due to the outbreak of the virus in different parts of the country and failure by many to comply with the restrictive measures, the government decided to gradually enact universal response measures.

Restrictions on movements and gatherings

From March 8 onwards, preventive measures, such as suspension of Open Care Centres for older people, deferral of all conference events and holding of sport events behind closed doors were announced. On March 9, all school trips, school championships and cultural events in enclosed and open spaces involving over 1,000 people were cancelled. Visiting hours in rehabilitation centres, day care and treatment units and kidney care units were revoked. Commencing on March 10, all educational establishments nationwide were closed for 14 days, with the suspension extendedtoApril 10 and recurrently to May 10 at the earliest.

On March 18, Greece announced new coronavirus restrictions pertaining to migrant camps. For thirty days, the movement of camp residents would be restricted to small groups between 7 am and 7 pm, which could only include one person per family and would be controlled by police patrolling and surveillance on public transport locations. Specialised medical teams were sent to the camps for the creation of virus isolation areas and compulsory body temperature measurements. All other visits to the camps whether by individuals or organizations were suspended for at least 14 days. On the same day, a ban on public gatherings of 10 or more people and the imposition of a 1,000 euro fine for violations was announced. Furthermore, a supermarket entry card was put in place to ensure no more than one customer per 10 m2 is in store at the same time so as to avoid overcrowding.

On March 20, it was announced that only permanent residents and supply trucks would be allowed to travel to the Greek islands, with effect from 6am local time on 21 March. Travelers would have to provide proof of permanent residence (via a tax certificate) on the island to which they would wish to travel. People who were already on the islands and wished to leave were allowed to return to the mainland.

On March 22, the Greek government announced a ban on all nonessential transport and movement across the country, starting from 6 am on March 23 until April 6. Since, movement is permitted only for a prescribed set of reasons:
1. Going to the pharmacy or visiting a medical doctor, in the case that this is recommended after consultation.
2. Going to a supply store in operation (supermarkets, mini markets etc), which cannot ship or deliver its goods.
3. Going to the bank, when electronic transactions are not possible.
4. Going to help people in need.
5. Going to a ceremony (e.g., funeral, marriage, baptism) under the conditions provided by law; or movement of divorced or legally separated parents in the context of parental responsibility, custody, or visiting rights in accordance with the applicable provisions.
6. Physical exercise in an open space or for a pet’s needs; individually or up to 2 people. In the latter case, a minimum distance of 1.5 meters must be kept at all times.

People returning to their permanent places of residence are also being exempt. Citizens leaving their home are required to carry their ID or passport, as well as some type of attestation depending on the purpose of travel. The webpage https://forma.gov.gr/ was created, providing instructions in reference to the Lockdown and the 2 types of movement permits that individuals must have with them at all times, should they need to leave their home. These are:

Work Commute Permit for Employees (Type A)
For commuting to and from the workplace at working hours the movement permit is fixed and is provided under the personal responsibility of the signatory by the employer or the legal representative thereof, or in the case of a freelancer or self-employed, themselves.

Extraordinary Movement Permit (Type B)
In order to issue a single-use extraordinary movement permit (type B), there are three options available: through a free SMS text message to the number 13033, through a printed one-time single-use movement permit, or through a signed handwritten declaration.

The information needed includes name, home address, time of departure from home, and specific reason for transport that falls under one of the exceptions. Members of the government and Parliament as well as all Health, Civil Protection, Law Enforcement and Armed Forces personnel were excluded from the measure. The Hellenic Police, the Municipal Police, the Hellenic Coast Guard and the National Transparency Authority are required to enforce the restrictions and issue fines of 150€ for each offense.

On the same day, it was also announced that daytime public transport services will be limited, ensuring, however, sufficient service during business hours. Journeys by car are only permitted for the specific exemptions, and the driver may only have one passenger in the vehicle.

On April 7, the government announced further restrictions on travel by land, sea and air until April 27 as part of the efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 during Easter.  People at airports, ports, railway stations and intercity bus stations will only be allowed to travel if they are carrying income tax documentation certifying that their permanent residence is their intended destination. Furthermore, travelers will not be allowed to return from their destination until the measures cease to apply (April 27). Those caught violating the rules will incur a 300€ fine –double the initial fine– while their license plates will be removed for 60 days. In addition, up to April 27, islanders will only be allowed to travel from small to larger islands within the same municipality for visits only to pharmacies, doctors, supply stores and banks (if electronic transactions are not possible).

Suspension of businesses and workplaces

On March 12, a two-week closure of all theatres, courthouses, cinemas, gyms, playgrounds and clubs was announced.

On March 13, the nationwide closure of all shopping centres, cafes, restaurants, bars, museums and archaeological sites and food outlets, excluding supermarkets, pharmacies and food outlets that offer take-away and delivery only, was announced. On March 14, all organized beaches and ski resorts were closed.

On March 19, the government announced the closure of all hotels across the country, from midnight on March 22 until the end of April. Only hotels that accommodate personnel that guard the borders will continue to operate, as well as three hotels in Athens and Thessaloniki and one hotel per regional unit. On March 22, all parks, recreation areas and marinas were also closed. Retailers who illegally continued operations were arrested in an initial display of the government’s zero tolerance policy on breaches of public health guidelines.

Suspension of religious practices

On March 16, the Greek Prime Minister announced the government's decision to suspend services in all areas of religious worship of any religion or dogma with immediate effect until March 30, effectively suspending the Greek Orthodox Sunday Divine Liturgies for that period too.