Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his wife spent Sunday mountain-biking outside Athens while Greeks are told to stay close to home.
ATHENS — Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has come under fire for apparently breaking his own government’s lockdown rules as coronavirus cases surge across the country.
On Tuesday, pictures of Mitsotakis and his wife Mareva were published in the Greek press and on social media, showing the pair mountain-biking in a forest around the Parnitha mountain north of Athens — about an hour and a half’s drive from their home — on Sunday.
The pictures also show the couple posing for photos with several passers-by, with none of them wearing masks or respecting social-distancing rules.
Greeks are currently only allowed to leave their homes to go to work, shop for essentials, visit a doctor or exercise close to their house and in groups of no more than three people. Rule-breakers are fined €300, and this weekend police handed out some €780,000 worth of fines for nearly 3,000 violations.
The controversy erupted as the coronavirus continues to spread rapidly in the country, with new cases remaining at above 2,000 a day and hospitals in many areas operating at close to capacity.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said that as a result, Greece would have to extend its lockdown beyond December 7, when it is set to expire.
Petsas defended the prime minister on Wednesday, saying that “Mitsotakis is accused of being human,” and that he would “never refuse to talk or [be] photographed” if approached.
That did not placate the opposition. “Blaming the citizens for their stance, while you refuse to follow the necessary measures is not human at all; it is a sign of arrogance and lack of empathy,” said Nasos Iliopoulos, spokesman of the main opposition party Syriza.
Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis joined Petsas in defending the prime minister’s actions, saying that people are allowed to go anywhere they want to exercise. “If you haven’t noticed, Parnitha is full of people going to the forest. And it’s fine, they can go,” he said.
According to the ministry of civil protection, however, exercise is permitted only in the vicinity of one’s home.
In addition to the pictures, a video circulated in the Greek press of Mareva Mitsotakis riding a motocross bike — which is prohibited in this area of the mountain for environmental reasons as it is a national park, prompting sharp criticism from the local Greenpeace chapter.
Also on Tuesday, an Athens prosecutor launched an investigation over newspaper reports about serious faults in the way the National Health Organization handled coronavirus data, the basis for decisions on restrictions.
According to the reports, issues include incomplete reporting and inconsistent collection of data as well as overlapping case lists kept by different branches of the organization, which could be to blame for the country’s slow response in the second wave of the pandemic.
Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/greece-prime-minister-accused-of-breaking-coronavirus-lockdown-rules/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication