Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared a general nationwide lockdown as of 6am, 23 March.
The move came after a doubling of Covid-19 cases in Greece in the 24 hours prior to the announcement, although it was widely expected for days.
“This is perhaps the ultimate step for an organised democratic state which must be taken in a timely manner for it not to prove useless because time is no longer measured in days but rather in hours and bold and swift initiatives are required,” the PM said.
“The state has a constitutional mandate to care for the health of the citizenry and to intervene when the individual rights transcends its constitutional objective and threatens society.”
Employees who are unable to work at home must have a written statement from the employer indicating the address of the venue and the work schedule.
The full text of the Prime Minister’s national address is as follows:My fellow citizens,
A short while ago I ordered the competent ministers to proceed with the necessary actions so that as of 6am tomorrow, 23 March, a ban on unnecessary movement of citizens will be in effect nationwide.
This is perhaps the ultimate step that an organised democratic state can take and it must be done in a timely manner in order for it not to be taken in vain because right now time is not counted in days but rather in hours and bold and swift initiatives are required.
The state has a constitutional duty to “care for the health of citizens” and to intervene when the exercise of individual liberties exceed their constitutional objective and imperil society.
When the responsibility of one proves deficient then the public interest must be ensured.
For the sake of the collective good I am proceeding with today’s decision in order to protect our health and all that we have achieved to that end until now.
I have already informed the President of the Republic and party leaders of my decision.
Consequently, as of tomorrow morning only those who are going to or returning from work, to buy groceries or medicine, to visit a doctor or a homebound person, to exercise alone or to walk their pet will be on the streets.
Finally, those who are located in an urban centre are allowed a one-time trip to their place of permanent residence.
It is mandatory for anyone circulating in public spaces to carry a police-issued [state] ID or passport.
The reason for their movement must be confirmed either with documentation from the employer in the case of salaried workers or with a signed affidavit in the case of freelancers or the self-employed.
There has already been preparation so that in a simple and user-friendly manner citizens can receive the affidavit by email or SMS but a handwritten declaration can be submitted.
The enforcement of the measure will be undertaken by Greek Police, Municipal Police, the Coast Guard, and the National Transparency Authority.
There will be a 150 euro fine for each violation.
Obviously members of the government and Parliament are exempted from these restrictions as are healthcare workers, Civil Protection Underministry employees, Security Forces, and the Armed Forces.
In Italy unfortunately one person dies every two minutes and the situation is worsening all over the world. I therefore have a duty not to allow our country to suffer such a trial.
We must not reach the point of having to choose who will live and who will die. I have only one choice: The life and health of Greeks!
I thank the overwhelming majority of citizens who understood the threat and are staying home. By desertifying streets and squares we banish the threat and by staying in our homes we transform them into bastions of life.
I shall not allow a few irresponsible people to undermine the security of the many because they can harm thousands of responsible people.
Because difficult moments lie ahead of us in this battle every back door through which the bad may pass must be shut.
That is the objective of the restriction of movement as of tomorrow.
From the first moment of this public health crisis the government informed citizens earnestly. It suitably organised the country’s medical infrastructure by hiring more nurses and procuring medical equipment that is hard to find. It also restructured public services.
Within the span of a few days the government announced three sets of bold measures to bolster workers and businesses even as we rendered our borders and those of Europe impassable.
Consequently, the state demonstrated that it is present everywhere.
Now is the time, however, when the individual overlaps with the collective.
Now is the hour of the citizen!
The Coronavirus does not distinguish between national, income, or social groups. It threatens the human beings whoever they may be and wherever they may reside and we are all equal before it.
Yet some – our grandfathers, grandmothers and parents – are more vulnerable. In the midst of this crisis our fellow citizens with chronic ailments must find refuge in the National Health System.
Greeks have not stopped falling ill from other diseases and we must care for them.
Yesterday, Professor Tsiodras [the PM’s scientific advisor and health ministry spokesman] choked up when he spoke of the responsibility of younger people to protect the elderly.
Let that emotional reaction of a person who is shouldering a huge burden in a clear-minded manner and with unparalleled dignity be a cry of awakening.
Now is the time for all of us to raise our own front and to write a new social contract.
The first commitment is to break the chain of transmission of the virus. Each of us must stop being a link of transmission to those beside us.
My fellow citizens,
The government is standing up and doing its duty by caring for every corner of the land.
Nonetheless, I shall reiterate that the greatest weapon against this invisible enemy is our personal behaviour [responsibility].
We dο not leave the home without reason. We stay at home. We do not insult with our stance those who day and night are waging a battle in hospitals to protect our health.
Remaining at home is at its core a par excellence slogan of collective responsibility. It is confinement. It is a demonstration of respect for the social whole.
We shall have to exhaust our reserves of bravery and patience in order to transcend the crisis.
I shall close with the words of US President Theodore Roosevelt we befit those who are battling the threat and will be called upon to do much more in the coming days:
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause.”
On behalf of all Greek women and men I thank them and I call on all of you to demonstrate our gratitude with our daily stance as personal desire must give way to the collective will and the fatherland relies on us.
We are all part of Greece so let us protect her so that we can be healthier, stronger, and more optimistic the day after.