The Full Weekly Briefing from Deputy Minister of Civil Protection and Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias about the new coronavirus & Q&A

From the beginning of the pandemic on February 25 until July 26, 4,193 cases have been recorded in our country, of which 429 are currently active. 1,061 were discharged from hospitals, 2,501 recovered at home, while 202 of our fellow human beings, unfortunately, did not make it.

Despite the increase in cases observed in recent days, the epidemiological picture of the country remains better than many other countries. And this is a result of the strategy implemented by the Government, taking into account the suggestions of experts.

The goal is to maintain and improve this image. Let Greece remain a safe country, both for its inhabitants and for its visitors. And in order to achieve this, both the state mechanism and each of us need to remain on alert, on alert and follow the instructions of the experts, as we have been doing since the first day of this pandemic.

To ensure that the opening up of tourism does not jeopardize what we have achieved, we have created, as you know, a special algorithm, the EVA algorithm. It is a complex model of artificial intelligence, designed by an excellent team of scientists, consisting of Kimonas Drakopoulos, Vishal Gupta (University of Southern California), Hamsa Bastani (Wharton University of Pennsylvania) and Giannis Vlachogiannis.

The algorithm, taking into account the number of tests per entry point, uses the epidemiological image from the public data of each region, in combination with the test results at the entrance gates, to evaluate the risk profile of each traveler based on the PLF data. The goal of EVA is both to identify passengers who are more likely to be carriers of the virus and to sample it to monitor all countries and regions for the rapid detection of new epidemiologically aggravated profiles. In recent days, for example, we have focused our attention on Spain, due to the changes in epidemiological data observed in that country, and we have already doubled the tests in those of this country of origin.

According to the “instructions” So the EVA, from 1 to up to the July 26 held in total at the entry points of the country’s 171 138 checks in total 1,294,798 incoming in place and confirmed cases is 344. Of these, 70 are still active, 213 have returned to the country of origin and 61 are no longer active and remain in our country. In terms of the origin of the cases, four of the top five places are still occupied by friendly countries of the Balkan Peninsula.

It is the epidemiological data that prevail in each country, which we take into account for the “opening”, but also for the “closing” of the borders, but also for taking further measures, such as the obligation of those traveling by air from Bulgaria and Romania to have at their disposal a negative molecular test.

As for the increase in domestic cases, the situation should not cause panic, but certainly not complacency. The Rt index, a parameter closely monitored by our Committee of Experts, in conjunction with domestic case tracking and Covid-19-related ICUs and hospitalizations, is around 0.4 as estimated by EODY. The fact that this number is relatively small, does not lead to complacency our Observatory, which meets on a weekly basis and clearly should not be complacent even our fellow citizens.

The increase in cases, especially in urban centers, such as Athens and Thessaloniki, clearly proves that the virus is still here and feeds on our every mistake, every suspicion of relaxation. It is up to all of us to stop it, it depends on each of us. And what we need to do remains simple: We adhere to the rules of self-protection and hygiene and avoid gatherings and unnecessary synchronicity, which are particularly conducive to the spread of the virus.

In this context, the Government, after a suggestion of the experts, decides the obligatory use of a mask in the following cases:

● for staff in retail stores and offices where there is contact with the public (DEKO, banks, municipal stores) and

Or for the public, ie for visitors and customers, in offices (such as DEKO, banks, municipal stores), in food stores (such as bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, patisseries, etc.), in retail stores, as well as in hairdressers and beauty salons.

It is reminded that the use of a mask is mandatory in the following cases:

● In Public Transport (metro, buses, trolleys, etc.)

● In taxis and commercial vehicles, for passengers and the driver.

● In supermarkets for employees and consumers.

So, from tomorrow, the following measures apply:

The use of a mask is mandatory for everyone, employees and the public:

● in DEKO, banks and other public service offices,

Or in supermarkets and grocery stores

● public transport and taxis,

Or in the elevators,

Or in hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centers

Or in retail stores and

Or in hairdressers and beauty salons.

The mask is also mandatory for catering workers, while it remains our strong recommendation to use the mask in all other enclosed spaces, but also in open spaces, where there is overcrowding and distances can not be kept. From tomorrow, we ask all our fellow citizens to faithfully adhere to the new rules for the use of masks, which aim to protect all of us.

The tightening of the mandatory use of the mask is not done for punitive reasons. It is done for the collective preventive good. Because the virus circulates among us and we must meticulously follow all the instructions of experts, including the use of a mask, with which we will need to learn to live.

For the implementation of the above, the controls will be made and will continue, in order to ensure that both these and the other necessary measures to reduce the pandemic are observed. More specifically, I would like to inform you that, from the 1st to the 26th of July, the Market Transparency and Anti-Trafficking Coordination Center, the National Transparency Authority and the Hellenic Police carried out 27,427 inspections, recorded 860 violations (3.1%) and imposed 1,004 fines totaling 284,350 euros, as well as administrative sanctions of suspension of operation for 270 days in total.

The big bet this summer is the next day. Managing to stay healthy, which is our top priority, as the economy begins to reactivate. Obviously this exercise, this equation let me say, seems extremely difficult. However, it is not impossible, as the data of the last months and especially of July prove, where the economic activity indicators show a steady upward movement, while the health condition of the country remains at absolutely manageable levels. In other words, those conditions are created that will allow us to look to the future with optimism regarding the health management of the pandemic, but also more broadly.

My dear fellow citizens, ladies and gentlemen,

Every attempt, every attempt to return early to our pre-coronavirus habits, jeopardizes what we have achieved so far. It takes us away from our common goal: to protect the health of ourselves and those around us, to create a bulwark against the disease.

As much as summer is associated with carelessness, with relaxation, it is necessary to remain very careful in following the rules, wherever we are.

Distances, masks and personal hygiene are the triptych to stay healthy, for Greece to continue to be health safe, to continue to emerge victorious.

Thank you.


V. GOULAS : We are seeing a worrying increase in cases in some areas. There are teachers who are also on the committee and recommend closing specific stores, such as beach bars. Do you have a command? Do you think so?

.CHARDALIAS: We follow all the proposals very carefully, whether it is at the level of the Committee of Experts, or it is individually a professor who has his own point of view. But all our decisions are based on real data and culminate step by step. Today we made the decision to apply a mask obligation for very specific categories. Obviously we are also concerned about the cases, which exist but are fully manageable and I want to emphasize this, because I also follow publications and statements in relation to many issues. We have a complete picture of what is happening right now in the country and in every corner of the country. I could go into detail, but I do not think that helps in this phase. The fact that we have cases in Attica and Thessaloniki is a given. I can tell you that we currently have 145 active cases in Athens, of which 36 are hospitalized and 109 are at home in isolation. Of these, 72% are in three specific regional units, including the center and the vast majority are specific clusters. At the same time, in Thessaloniki we have 66 active cases that we are discussing today. Of these, 8 are in hospital and 58 are in home isolation. I could tell you neighborhood – neighborhood exactly what is going on and what I want to make clear is that we do hard tracking at every level. Also, I will typically tell you a fact, for these 145 active cases that we have at the moment in Attica we have about 596 people, who have been put as close contacts, either high or low risk, in isolation. Nevertheless, It is worthwhile not to allow any case to multiply in relation to the virus. In order to do this, in addition to tracking, we must monitor, as we have been doing since the first day of the crisis, the issue of home isolation, of all those involved either at the level of close contacts or at the level of cases. And with the daily meetings we have here at the General Secretariat for Civil Protection and with the excellent cooperation we have with the control mechanisms and with EODY, we step by step top this process and feel a sense of security. I listen to different things and watch different things about whether traces are made – no traces are made. Believe me if something has made the difference in the country compared to other countries is the powerful tracking system that we have in collaboration with EODY and this has been proven. What is needed is not to allow the volume of cases to become such that it will not allow us to direct instant tracking in any part of the country. 

I.DEVETZOGLOU : The number of the specific sampling behind this case control system, the well-known PLF, as you mentioned today is called EVA, how much did it cost in the country and how is personal data secured? What is its success rate? Given that with a rough mathematical calculation in the last 5 days we had 32 cases at the entrance gates of the country, but 21 tourists came voluntarily, ie 60/40, but this is a rough mathematical calculation. Do we have something more specific?

N. CHARDALIAS : The EVA system was developed as a scientific collaboration between the Greek Government and the team of scientists I mentioned to you. It has not cost a single euro, it is not going to cost money, the algorithm will be analyzed in future obviously scientific publications and as I told you, there has been no money exchange. All 4 scientists with whom I have the pleasure and the honor, either live or through teleconferences, to work daily work in the system voluntarily. Also, what needs to be clarified in all tones is that the data used is obviously anonymous and cumulative and there is reverent respect, let me say on the issue of GDPR rules.

V. VENIZELOS : I have not heard anything about the churches regarding the new measures you are announcing. And I would like to ask you this: Expert scientists have told us that the problem is orphan cases for a few days and as you say with the tracking they disappear when they come to aggregation situations. I do not see any measures to be taken at the rallies.

Ν.ΧΑΡΔΑΛΙΑΣ: Let me start with the last one. There is an issue of both individual and collective responsibility in the matter of rallies. There can be no police patrol outside any gathering place or any event. We each have a responsibility when we participate, especially when some are chaotic in terms of people, but those who organize them also have a responsibility. I think I was clear in what I said in the previous update. Beyond that, the control mechanisms do their job. We emphasize especially in areas that have strong epidemiological loads. This planning is done week by week. That is, every week, I tell you that there are about 1000 tests targeted in the 8 areas with the highest epidemiological loads that concern workers especially in the field of either tourism or catering. We want employees to stay safe. The most important of all that we are discussing is that because the issue of places of worship has been included), very important steps have been taken and the overall picture we have is that the vast majority of churches follow all the rules. Should it be because obviously there is congregation and there is a greater participation in the churches it is something we are not considering at the moment.

A.ALEXOPOULOS : I would like to ask you regarding the announcements of EODY from Friday until yesterday, 31 orphan cases are listed. As of July 15, there are 90 orphan cases according to EODY. So having many examples of sailors and tourists who did the test privately, why they were not checked at the gates, but also the crowded images on public transport that are observed again in recent days, I would like to ask you when do you think that individual responsibility of citizens ends , so that the state mechanism provides complete and detailed information neighborhood neighborhood about where the cases are? Also, what are the numerical limits of countermeasures, such as the use of a mask to get back to the discussion of perhaps local lockdowns?

Ν.ΧΑΡΔΑΛΙΑΣ: Let me say a few things. When we say that a case is under investigation, it does not mean that it is an orphan. A case may have completed a PLF in which its details are incorrect. Obviously the EODY mechanism can not approach a specific person. But that is where the Civil Protection mechanism comes in. I said in the previous update, there are no orphan cases. There are cases, which in the tracking by the officials of the Civil Protection and EODY it is not clearly presumed where the virus may have been transmitted. In these cases again we have our own protocols, most of which are vertical protocols so that there is no case of virus in a specific area or in a specific cluster and this is not isolated. That is why we make difficult decisions. That is, if we have a case, which does not arise from where he may have stuck and his daily life is about working in a place where there are other 30, we will close the workplace. So there are protocols, which we follow in each case. And for that there should be no worry. And let me tell you something else, there is no case in Civil Protection that we do not know exactly where it is. Exactly where it is located. Not in what wider area. At what point, in what neighborhood, in what address. These are elements, however, that after the expiration of 23 days are destroyed for reasons of respect for the personal data of everyone. Through these data we can have the picture where there are more cases. These cases do not have to be interconnected. But we are interested in them being connected to specific clusters. We run this exercise every day, believe me. That’s why I gave you some information about Attica. So there is no need to panic, but at the moment there is no need to be complacent. We remain on alert the whole mechanism and everyone through his own look, through his own approach tries to be useful and bring concrete results.  

S.PATRAMANI : In which areas are the violations in the implementation of the measures mainly identified?

CHARDALIAS : In not using a mask. Especially the cases where we have a suspension of operation of the stores are found in the fact that they have more people through those that are provided by law and the relevant ministerial decision.

S.PATRAMANI : In Public Transport?

.HARDALIAS : This issue is intense. That is why the inspections are being carried out and I want to make it clear that the inspections, especially next week, will be intensified, especially in public transport and especially in areas of Attica where we see that there are several cases lately. Not something to panic about, I repeat, but you know, even the controls we do are targeted. In other words, they are based on very specific models that also have an epidemiological burden.

S. PATRAMANI : In Attica, what else are we waiting for, in order to address this issue of the continuous increasing trend in the recording of cases?

CHARDALIAS :There is no continuous upward trend. There is a constant trend, which in combination with the number of visitors we have, but also in some very specific areas where these cases are associated, do not cause us any panic. We watch them. There is nothing that we feel is missing us. We must continue like this. We must not allow anything to go wrong or go wrong. But also the checks that are made, with special emphasis on those areas where last week, for example, we had more cases. So, if we assume that in an area we have 7-8 cases, especially if they are cases that are in different clusters, obviously we have targeted checks in this area on public transport, but also in gathering places, 

D.GALONAKI : From what we see in our daily lives, the shops that have the biggest problem are the orthodox ones. Will you decide to ban standing up and be just tables and chairs? Because in the other stores all the conditions are met. And a second question, yesterday Mr. Petsas said that you are talking about the church, about the mask and I want you to tell me when you will make this decision.

CHARDALIAS :I think I was clear before. We are not just talking about the church, we are talking about everything. And for orthopedics and anything. Decisions, however, are made on the basis of very specific data. So when we need to make decisions, it means that we will have exhausted all other means to be able to go to the next step. In our work especially, which is based on forecasting and analysis models, there are no deadlines, for example until Wednesday we have to make any decision. Every day, I tell you again, we observe everything epidemiologically. In each area. Obviously there are issues that concern us, but this whole exercise is a difficult exercise, it is a difficult equation, which we watch step by step every day. And every week through the discussions we have at the Observatory, we make more decisions. We proceed with a larger pace or cut speed, depending on the data of each area.

N.DABOU : Do you know the number of people who have died from the flu? And if in the end it was worth opening the economy, given that we are at the end of July and bookings in most places and on the islands are very low and the tourists who come, are not the tourists who will consume high, in relation to the health and increased incidence.

CHARDALIAS :Regarding how many of our fellow human beings have died from the flu, I refer you to the Ministry of Health and the relevant competent services. Beyond that, the issue of the “opening” of the economy is something that I personally believe was also legislative. Because there are whole societies, which live from the income of tourism. The question is, are we in a phase where the “opening up” of the economy, as it is done in a very structured, very careful, step-by-step manner, really allows us to manage the pandemic or the virus in safe conditions and without any discount on public health? I think the answer is “yes”. And I think that proves it and I ask you and I invite you to see what is happening all over the world. What is happening around us, even in Europe. Obviously it is a difficult exercise. Obviously these questions will follow us for many months. But the most important thing is to try to be effective every day. To strive to keep citizens safe and to manage responsibly, consistently and seriously every case, which can be either domestic or incoming. It is a difficult question. It is a difficult exercise. It is a difficult time with an invisible enemy, with uncharted waters, but believe me, every day we give our best to be able to bring concrete results. consistently and seriously each case, which can be either domestic or incoming. It is a difficult question. It is a difficult exercise. It is a difficult time with an invisible enemy, with uncharted waters, but believe me, every day we give our best to be able to bring concrete results. consistently and seriously each case, which can be either domestic or incoming. It is a difficult question. It is a difficult exercise. It is a difficult time with an invisible enemy, with uncharted waters, but believe me, every day we give our best to be able to bring concrete results. 

A. SPAGADOROU : Have you foreseen fines for the new categories of stores that you announced, for not using a mask? And regarding these targeted cases that you told us, the 1000, which you check every week, is a very interesting fact. Are you referring to the focus specifically? Are these tests, the tests, repeated at regular intervals? Because that is what is required.

CHARDALIAS :Let me first explain something about targeted controls. Every Wednesday, that is, tomorrow, with the EVA team, we record the data in each area. And there are 10 areas, which based on the mobility that existed in cases, are the highest in Greece. In these areas, in addition to all the other measures we take, targeted inspections are carried out in the part that concerns the employees. Because we want employees to stay safe. Already, I can tell you that in the first week these checks were more in mainland. Last week it was overwhelming in island areas. Essentially, every Wednesday, there is the team of checks, of these 1000 checks, that are done, usually on Fridays and Saturdays in these areas. In addition, there are controls, which are made by the control mechanisms in relation to the general observance of the measures or not. So everything we do is based on a specific strategy. And I want that to be clear. Regarding the fines, the 150 € are valid for not using a mask.

A. ANGELOPOULOU : Where are we regarding the festivals? Because in 3 days the period that they have been banned ends and as you understand, in anticipation of the 15th of August, everyone is waiting how and how.

CHARDALIAS :I would suggest that no one wait how and how, in the sense that we must be very careful with the theme of the festivals. And I realize there are some reactions, but we finally have to realize that this summer may not be the same as last summer. So, at the end of the month we will take into account the existing data and we will act accordingly. I do not hide my words and as I said last time, I personally believe that we should get away from all these festivals, in which we would all like to participate, they create beautiful memories for all of us, but it is the time that each of us will have to make small sacrifices. And it is not only that the festivals do not take place, but it is also to be avoided, each of us, to take part in such or similar gatherings or as I say, pointless crowds. So it is a matter of both collective and individual responsibility.

E.REVI :Apart from the checks at the entrance gates, which is very important, there is another issue. Tourists are coming and we have made the “opening” in tourism. The issue is how they behave when moving in ships. Personally Santorini Crete in the closed boat inside almost no measure was observed. Most took off their masks and sat in places where there was a red ban. So what do we do there? In Crete, inside a ship, no one wore a mask, did not get the staff they needed, we understand that not all this staff and the control mechanism exist. But what happens there and how will you find the cases? Do you combine some more targeted actions in some areas that you know do not control anyone at all and do not follow any measures?

CHARDALIAS : There are no areas, which are autonomous and do not observe any measures. There are areas that are probably more touristy. There are areas where the profile of visitors is younger. There is a bit of non-compliance with the measures. Obviously, the controls we do have specific goals. We are concerned with the issue of ships. The Coast Guard has received very specific orders, in relation to the controls it carries out. If these mechanisms need to be strengthened by other mechanisms, whether it concerns the Transparency Authority or the Greek Police, rest assured that we will do so.

E.REVI : Is there a case to see other controls in some areas? For example, in Santorini, in Oia, at sunset there was a crowd. Then how do you track contacts there?

CHARDALIAS : I have said it before and I say it with great concern. If here each of us presents a specific example, based on the experiences and information we have or report many times, hundreds and thousands of destinations and points will emerge, where small or large colors are observed. We must get away from the model that at every point there must be a control mechanism of the state. The state is trying. And he has made a huge effort. I will say it again, it has to do with our individual responsibility. Whether we want to participate or whether we want to be safe wherever we go. And to be safe not for ourselves, to be safe for our neighbors, for the people in the house who may have underlying diseases or be old and for those around us. So, the dogma, the model, which we had to serve from the very beginning of the pandemic remains the same. With responsibility for the real data we try to keep the measures, the distances and where we need to wear the mask. At the same time, let ‘s not expect everything from the control mechanisms. It is not possible to have a patrol car every sunset, all over the country, to disperse those who will go to see it. And in the final analysis, let everyone go and see the sunset, let everyone be able to enjoy our every area, our every neighborhood. But to do this in clear terms of security for ourselves and those around us. the distances and where we need to wear the mask. At the same time, let us not expect everything from the control mechanisms. It is not possible to have a patrol car every sunset, all over the country, to disperse those who will go to see it. And in the final analysis, everyone should go to see the sunset, everyone should be able to enjoy each of our areas, each of our neighborhoods. But to do so in clear terms of security for both ourselves and those around us. the distances and where we need to wear the mask. At the same time, let us not expect everything from the control mechanisms. It is not possible to have a patrol car every sunset, all over the country, to disperse those who will go to see it. And in the final analysis, everyone should go to see the sunset, everyone should be able to enjoy each of our areas, each of our neighborhoods. But to do so in clear terms of security for both ourselves and those around us.

E.REVI :  So since we have an increase in cases we can see local lockdown?

N.HARDALIAS : We have this discussion constantly. I have clarified and I say it again to be sure, there is no case for any general lockdown. Now, if we get to some local lockdown, it means we have come a long way. We will have taken piles of decisions and piles of measures, which have not worked, so we will definitely need to do any local lockdown. At the moment we are talking we are far from any local lockdown, in relation to the image we observe every day across the country.

M.KROUSTALI : Yesterday it was announced that the final of the football cup will take place on August 30. Has the issue of returning to the stadiums been discussed at all or is it still too early to discuss such a thing?

N. HARDALIAS : I think it is too early to talk about such a thing, but in any case I refer you to the Ministry of Sports. There, together with the bodies related to sports, any suggestions that exist should be based on the real data and the most important thing is on the basic epidemiological data of the time, in which it will be proposed to have a small or large return of the fans. In my opinion, the time is still far when the sport will start with big stadiums. 

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