Greece set to lift movement restrictions

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Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis

Greece is preparing to lift restrictions on movement to islands and other parts of the country in June, media reports suggested on Monday.

In an address to the nation on Tuesday, the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is expected to outline how measures enforced to curb coronavirus almost two months ago will be gradually eased.

The lockdown will be reversed in stages and is likely to require at least two months to unfold with small shops, hairdressers, beauticians and barbers opening on 4 May and secondary school students returning to class on 11 May.

Restaurants, tavernas and other eateries will follow but will only be permitted to function with outside tables. “The return to normality will likely happen in three stages, at the beginning of May, the end of May and mid June,” said one insider.

Government officials say it is essential that the economy is unlocked in a country that was only beginning to recover from a long and punishing debt crisis when the pandemic struck. The country’s tourist-reliant economy is on course to contract by as much as 10% this year, the finance minister announced at the weekend.

Greece enforced measures to combat the deadly disease “hard and early” and has, as a result, fared better than most other EU member states with a death toll of 134 and 2,517 confirmed cases of the novel virus to date.

The time gained has allowed the government to beef up the public health system – hit by successive budget cuts during the financial crisis – increasing the number of intensive care beds by 80% and employing an extra 3,200 medical staff.

But Mitsotakis has already spoken of a possible second wave in the winter. With the war against the virus not yet over, aides say he will insist on the need for vigilance in the months ahead.