Greek prime minister criticised for lunch with up to 40 people | World news

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The Greek prime minister is facing mounting anger over claims he attended a meal for as many as 40 people on the very day health restrictions had been tightened to thwart transmission of the virus.

“[He] ought to say a very big sorry to the Greek people,” said Nasos Iliopoulos, the spokesman for the main opposition party, Syriza, as criticism of the incident grew. “It’s even worse when it has happened on the day that the government has asked citizens to remain indoors from 6pm.”

Kyriakos Mitsotakis found himself in the line of fire after he and his entourage were filmed enjoying lunch on the terrace of the harbour-front home of an MP in Ikaria. Media reports described as many as 40 people gathering – far in excess of the limit of nine people congregating at any one time.

The centre-right leader was visiting the far-flung Aegean island and islets in the adjacent archipelago to meet medical staff and witness the country’s vaccination programme first hand.

But what had been a successful trip was quickly overshadowed by the news that the group had flouted a cardinal rule in the government’s arsenal of curbs against the pandemic during a meal at the home of New Democracy MP Christodoulos Stefanidis.

In no time, images and video footage of the event were circulating on the internet.

On an island known for its leftwing political culture – leftists were banished to the outpost during the 1946-49 civil war and subsequent 1967-74 Colonels’ regime – it was not long before the incident had morphed into a major political faux pas prompting outrage in Athens.

By Sunday, the Syriza leader and former prime minister Alexis Tsipras had also uploaded the video on his Instagram account, castigating the government for “profound presumption and arrogance”.

Stefanidis, a cardiologist, acknowledged that a crowd had spontaneously congregated outside the building to see the prime minister “up close” but insisted that during the brief time people were inside his home health protocols were upheld.

“During the meal all the measures … were observed,” he said, noting that the entourage not only dined outdoors but that the number of people around each table was strictly limited with mask-wearing studiously observed in between. “I am sincerely sorry that the images and conditions, beyond the space where the prime minister was [and] where people had converged spontaneously to see him up close, were not correct.”

Greek corona cases

With daily coronavirus diagnoses back in quadruple digits as fears mount about a third wave of the pandemic, lockdown measures were reinforced on Saturday with a nightly curfew brought forward to 6pm from 9pm.

At over 163,000 confirmed coronavirus cases – and nearly 6,000 deaths – Greece has fared better than most countries. But three months after the nation went into lockdown, patience with the regulations is also wearing thin.

This is not the first time Mitsotakis has been in the spotlight for flouting rules his own government has set, with opposition parties seizing the opportunity to score points.

In early December the politician was criticised after images emerged of him posing with admirers during a mountain biking excursion with his wife in the Parnitha range north of Athens. No one was wearing a mask or keeping social distancing rules. He subsequently apologised.

Responding to the criticism late on Sunday, the government’s spokesman Christos Tarantilis criticised the opposition for suggesting that “a fiesta” had taken place in Ikaria in which Mitsotakis had participated, calling the claims inaccurate and divisive.

But he added: “in the prime minister’s future tours every possible care will be taken so that the wrong image is not created.”

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Greek prime minister criticised for lunch with up to 40 people | World news

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