The mass protests were staged by doctors across the country on Tuesday to press demands for the government to hire additional medical staff to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Doctors and nurses led the protests by holding a huge banner that read “We fight for you. Shout for us” in Athens outside the largest hospital in Greece.
Staff from more than a dozen other hospitals across the country followed suit, organised by the national hospital doctors’ union.
Backed by the Greek Communist Party, doctors demanded the Government imposed an obligation on private clinics and practitioners to join the fight against COVID-19.
Greece has imposed a nationwide lockdown and banned arrivals from non-EU countries as well as Germany, Italy and Spain.
The measures have hit its economy, which is relying on tourism for recovery after a decade-long debt crisis.
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“I think it’s clear to us that in the past few days there is a slowdown and we expect to see a reduction, which means the measures are showing results,” said Professor Sotiris Tsiodras, the government’s chief scientific adviser on the coronavirus.
Authorities have extended a lockdown until April 27, meaning that restrictions will apply over Easter, the most important religious holiday in the Orthodox calendar when hundreds of thousands of Greeks normally head to their family homes to celebrate.
“The battle we are waging is a difficult one and the worst mistake we can do is underestimating the enemy so it’s important to listen to experts and avoid any movement unless absolutely necessary,” Crisis Management Minister Nikos Hardalias said.
Tsiodras said that despite a crisis which had left public health services severely stretched, Greeks were still coming forward to help with other medical emergencies. Two individuals had given bone marrow samples to assist people in need.
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At a news briefing, he thanked Savvas, a man from northern Greece, and Andreas, from Crete. One sample would be sent to a child in Turkey.
“This is exactly what solidarity among peoples means before a common enemy,” he said.
It comes as the European Commission has announced multi-billion-euro state support packages for Greece, Portugal and Poland.
Portugal has so far reported 12,442 confirmed coronavirus cases and 345 deaths, a relatively low toll, especially compared to neighbouring Spain, which has seen nearly 14,000 fatalities, second only to Italy worldwide.
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Cases are expected to plateau at the end of May, Portuguese health authorities have said.
Portugal declared a 15-day nationwide state of emergency on March 18, which was extended last Thursday until April 17.
Last week the government tightened restrictions during the Easter holiday period, closing all airports to commercial flights and banning domestic travel from April 9-13.
Portugal’s tourism-dependent, export-driven economy is wilting from the sudden drop in global demand, with over 30,000 companies applying for government support to pay half a million workers as their activities grind to a halt.
Portugal will boost its credit lines for businesses struggling with the coronavirus outbreak to 4.2 billion euros on Wednesday, the government said, after a state aid package from the European Commission helped shore up the country’s finances.
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