Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in an interview with ANT1 TV late on Thursday expressed cautious optimism over the progress of the ‘Omicron’ variant.
“We saw a sharp increase in cases in Greece at the end of last month. We are already seeing a de-escalation and all the data from other countries show that it is more or less like a summer storm: high intensity, it rises quickly, but it also leaves quickly,” the prime minister said.
“We are aware that the ‘Omicron’ variant causes significantly lower morbidity, although it is much more contagious, that is, it is much more likely that someone will get infected,” he said. However, he explained that its lower morbidity does not mean that we should not be on alert.
The prime minister admitted that the Greek society has well cooperated, with a few exceptions, which are decreasing every day.
Mitsotakis stressed that Greece managed to keep its economy open. “We have avoided the lockdown. We have saved tourism. And the economy has recorded extremely high growth rates, which will definitely exceed 7 pct.”
On the issue of the national health system, he noted that intensive care units have more than doubled.
“We have hired anyone who was available to offer his services to the national health system. There is no person in the free market today who can help – pulmonologist, anesthesiologist – who wants to be hired and we have not hired him,” the prime minister said and added:
“So we have done what was humanly possible. At the same time, however, with great sincerity, from the first moment, I spoke about the weaknesses of the national health system. More specifically, about the fact that our regional hospitals could not in moments of pressure offer the quality of care we would like. This has made us open a substantial discussion on the issue and proceed to bold interventions in the national health system.”
As for the economy, he said that high growth rates were recorded in 2021. “Disposable income has improved for all citizens, taxes have been reduced, tourism has well performed, unemployment rate has dropped, new jobs have been created.”
Asked on unemployment rates and the recent EU data that show Greece to be a champion in youth unemployment, the prime minister replied:
“Unemployment fell from around 17 pct to around 13 pct. And this happened in the midst of a pandemic. We are not going to say that we are satisfied with our performance in the labour market except when unemployment falls to single-digit numbers. This is the goal we have set.”
“We created more than 50,000 jobs amidst the pandemic. We want to create 80,000 jobs in 2022. We have significant resources for such policies,” Mitsotakis underlined.
Regarding price hikes, he explained that it is an imported phenomenon as a result of higher natural gas prices which have also affected electricity prices.
“From the very first moment we said that we will support households, and now businesses, subsidizing part of the increase. Can we fully cover the increase? No, we can not cover the full increase. But we can cover an important part. We did it for households in the last months of ’21, we will do it for as long as this great turmoil in the energy market lasts,” he stressed.
The prime minister also announced a second increase in the minimum wage to be implemented as of May 1, 2022.