Greek president voices optimism over outcome of battle against COVID-19

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ATHENS, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou expressed optimism over the outcome of the battle against the novel coronavirus epidemic on Tuesday.

Shortly earlier, Greece's Health Ministry announced 48 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections, raising Greece's total to 743 and 20 fatalities from 17 a day earlier.

In addition, 134 infected patients were currently hospitalized, of whom 45 were in intensive care units, ministry officials said during a daily press briefing.

In her first televised address to the nation since taking office on March 13, the first female head of state in the country called on Greeks to be united to face the unprecedented threat.

"Today, we need to leave aside the 'I' to safeguard the 'We' and keep the nation standing. We need to temporarily sacrifice our personal freedoms to protect the highest common good of public health," she said in her message which was broadcast live on Greek national TV broadcaster ERT.

"Today, Greeks are giving another historic battle. However, we are not alone. I am confident we will win, and next year we will have a grand celebration for the 200th anniversary of the 1821 revolution," she added.

Sakellaropoulou stressed that the pandemic exceeds national borders and that in this case as well it becomes clear that such challenges can be faced only on international level through cooperation between political leaders, societies and scientists.

Greece launched on Monday a 14-day nationwide lockdown in the context of efforts to contain the further spread of the epidemic. On Wednesday there will be no military and student parades to celebrate Greece's Independence Day.

Prior to the lockdown, the government had closed schools, universities, restaurants, coffee shops, shopping malls, retail shops, sports and culture centers, public parks and put restrictions or banned air, sea and road connections with many countries.

During Tuesday's press conference, Nikos Hardalias, Deputy Minister for Civil Protection and Crises Management at the Ministry of Citizen Protection, said that so far most Greeks continue to comply with the measures and stay home, while going out for necessities carrying a needed certificate.

From Monday until Tuesday at 3.00 p.m., a total of 766 fines of minimum 150 euro (161.6 U.S. dollars) each were imposed on those who violated the measure, according to the Greek police in an e-mailed press statement.

The 83 percent of Greeks were "worried" or "very worried" about the epidemic, according to a survey carried out on behalf of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry which was released on Tuesday.

The 94 percent of respondents expected negative consequences on business activity in the country and 73 percent approved the initiatives taken by the government so far to ease the impact of the virus on the economy. (1 euro = 1.08 U.S. dollars) Enditem

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