As Greece is emerging from a five-month long lockdown, the country is faced with a delicate balancing act between returning to normality and safeguarding the Covid-19 containment strategy. The resumption of economic activities will thus involve measures to not only minimize the risks of spreading the virus, but also break the chain of infection.
As of April 7, Greece introduced self-testing against the Covid-19 virus, supplying its citizens with self-testing kits that are available at pharmacies for free. Citizens using their National Security Number are entitled to four tests per month. Students, teachers and those working in retail, shipping, tourism, catering, business and courts would be required to self-test weekly and report their result to an online portal (www.self-testing.gov.gr). This new tool will allow for better epidemiological monitoring, early detection and tracing of close contacts, assisting in the disruption of the transmission of infection. This is a model successfully implemented in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where participation in activities and meetings is dependent upon the submission of a negative PCR test.
Meanwhile, as part of the country’s strategy against the pandemic, Greece will continue vaccinating its population, with the present goal being the administration of at least one dose to all citizens above the age of 60 by the end of April. So far Greece has administered over 2.5 million doses and is expecting the delivery of 7.4 million vaccines in May and June.
Finally, in preparation for the country’s opening to tourists on May 14th, the government has announced a deliberate plan that allows tourists to enjoy their vacations while ensuring their and the whole population’s well-being. Travellers will have to demonstrate either a vaccination certificate, a negative PCR test or proof they have recovered from Covid-19 infection. They will be subject to testing upon arrival and in case they are found positive, they would be required to quarantine. Masks, social distancing and restrictions in restaurants and means of transportation will be maintained as the cornerstones of the fight against the pandemic.
A year after the outbreak of the pandemic, Greece is in a much stronger position. It has more than doubled the number of ICU beds, has vaccinated a portion of its population and has embarked upon the diversification of its economy. Investments in sectors like e-governance and the digitisation of the public sector, infrastructure and the green economy are at the heart of Greece’s new economic model. Greece 2.0, the country’s growth strategy designed by Nobel Prize-winning economist Christopher Pissarides, has been singled out by EU officials as one of the most coherent plans submitted by member states. The National Recovery and Resilience Plan aspires to create 200,000 additional new jobs, increasing the states GDP by 7 points by 2026.
Yet Greece has also been at the forefront of shaping the post Covid-19 era. At the dawn of the pandemic, in a bold letter, along with eight other European leaders, Greece raised the issue of common European borrowing for the first time, to address the economic consequences of the pandemic. In forging the day after, Prime Minister Mitsotakis proposed the adoption of the ‘Digital Green Certificate’ bearing testament to Greece’s role in collectively turning the page.