Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek Prime Minister, urged the Orthodox Church yesterday (11 March) to observe scientific recommendations when it comes to public gatherings as authorities step up measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
“Personally, I felt the need to invoke my faith,” Mitsotakis admitted in a televised speech on Wednesday (11 March).
But “as Prime Minister, I have to listen to scientists. What applies to public gatherings also applies to churches,” the Prime Minister said.
“Faith often begins where science ends. But the faith we need now is to manage to overcome the crisis,” the conservative premier continued.
“All should follow the instructions of doctors and specialists,” he stressed.
Earlier this week, the Greek Orthodox Church issued a statement saying that for the members of the Church, attending Eucharist and Communion through the common glass of life “certainly cannot be a cause of disease transmission.”
The statement triggered strong reactions from doctors and scientists who called on the church to abide by scientific recommendations in order to contain the spread of the virus.
In Orthodox liturgy, worshipers not only take the holy communion but also partake of the consecrated wine during the mass, usually from one common spoon, something the Roman Catholic Church has abandoned.
Instead of hygiene measures, the Greek religious authorities urged worshipers to “pray” against the spread of the virus and take all the necessary measures indicated by authorities.
The first death from coronavirus was reported today early in the morning. A 66-year-old man lost the battle against coronavirus after he was hospitalised on 4 March. The country has now reached 100 coronavirus cases.
The government has already decided to suspend the operation of all educational institutions in the country as of 11 March for precautionary reasons in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus in the country. The measure covers all levels of public and private education and will apply immediately.
Mitsotakis also announced that an additional 2,000 nurses and doctors will be hired on two-year contracts in order to help hospitals face the emergency.
The Greek PM also warned about the severe economic implications of the coronavirus, and reiterated calls for changes to the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact and budgetary targets in order to finance extraordinary expenditure related to the virus.
“I believe that this will happen and that the European Union will do whatever it takes to support its member states quickly,” Mitsotakis said.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]