The Minister of Public Protection Services and the Chief of the Greek Police addressed the recent Mykonos coronavirus restrictions before more than 200 community members at a town hall held on the island on Monday morning.
The meeting marked the first time the Minister had visited the island after the recent draconian government coronavirus measures had lifted.
The hated restrictions included a ban on normal activities, including standing and mingling in bars, nighttime entertainment and music on the island, for the past ten days.
Michalis Chrysochoidis, the Minister of Public Protection Services and Michalis Karamalakis, the ELAS Chief, arrived in Mykonos for a town hall to address concerns from municipal leaders and stakeholders in the tourism and health sectors.
Mykonos Mayor Konstandinos Koukas opened the town hall with welcoming remarks and references to the progress that has been made, one year after Chrysochoidis previously visited the island. Also present was Cyclades MP Katerina Monogiou from the New Democracy party.
Mykonos Coronavirus Restrictions Subject of Town Hall Discussions
Minister Chrysochoidis said that the safety measures proved to be effective in containing Covid-19 outbreaks on the island, as the infection rate had dropped by 34 percent since restrictions were enacted on July 17. He offered statistical evidence citing that the infected patients had an average age of 30, ranging from 25 to 64.
Of the 206 infections, 76 were foreigners — either seasonal employees or tourists — with only 10 percent of infections traced to small family gatherings. Others had contracted COVID from public places.
The Minister said “This is not a normal summer. Public health is at risk and this is why the government needs to act quickly, to protect its citizens. We are battling an invisible enemy. There is only one way to battle the pandemic, by listening to the experts in order to protect public health. And each of us are responsible for public health because of our individual actions.”
Chrysochoidis added “We have to protect the residents, the employees and the tourists. Each measure taken is based on the epidemiological evidence and the advice of medical experts. We are doing our best to protect public health as well as the Mykonos brand.”
Town Hall Focuses On Increased Police Personnel
ELAS Chief Karamalikis said “We are trying to change the public’s attitude toward the police. COVID has slowed down that process because we are responsible for enforcing the public to abide by measures that are in the interest of their own safety. Now we are seen instead as punishing them, for removing their freedom.”
Karamalakis said that within the next few weeks he would continue to fortify the Mykonos Police Department with more permanent personnel. New Mykonos Chief of Police, Fotis Tzelepis, who was appointed in May, has handpicked an additional 130 officers to join the force of 56 who previously were stationed on the island. Karamalakis added that by the end of the year an additional 30 officers would be added.
“Covid has taken up a great deal of police time,” Chrysochoidis admitted. “We don’t want to close or fine businesses. We are here to work together to improve the service of ELAS.”
The floor opened for statements from stakeholders in both municipality and tourism matters at the town hall. MP Monogiou said that she was continuing to recommend that a district attorney be stationed on the island full-time to streamline and facilitate police action.
Cyclades Prefecture Representative Stelios Brigos stated that the entire community was shocked that the recent coronavirus measures had been imposed without any discussion with the local leadership. “We paid for our success by being penalized in the worst way. This made Mykonos look weak from a branding perspective,” he stated.
He added that the villa parties that had been taking place outside of all normal entertainment restrictions were a detriment to public health and the local economy. “We are against entertainment that goes against the law, shelters tax fugitives and harms public health by spreading the disease.”
Former Mykonos mayor Christos Veronis and current city council leader of the Mykonos political party “Mykonos First Again,” cited that the measures the government put in place were in error as the restrictions imposed used empirical evidence that was flawed.
It used permanent population numbers as opposed to actual numbers of visitors and seasonal workers on the island in the summertime — which actually came to more than 100,000 as opposed to the 10,000 wintertime population.
He also said that consideration was not taken that Mykonos Airport serves as an international travel hub and many visitors coming from other islands who went through the airport skewed the figures.
Veronis said the government is obliged to recognize the responsibility a mayor has to small island communities and must work with local leadership. “A full plan needs to be in place to address the issue of illegal private villa and yacht parties taking place as well as promoting vaccination, and regular rapid testing of hospitality personnel,” he maintained.
Hercules Zissimopoulos, the president of the Association of Mykonos Town Businesses and Professionals, said that because of the nature of Mykonos town, with narrow streets bringing people into close proximity, the outdoor mask mandate should be re-imposed to contain the further spread of the virus.
John Theocharis, president of the Mykonos Association of Entertainment and Catering, requested the Minister take under consideration a discrepancy in the law that has been problematic for catering establishments. Current law issues an operating license for a venue until 5 AM; however, music is only allowed to be played until 3 AM. A change in this discrepancy in the law, dating back to 1996, will make a difference in both the operation and policing of establishments.
Mykonos Health Center Director Dina Sampsouni said that although the island’s health facility has been generously subsidized by the municipality and private donations, there remains a lack of infrastructure to support the needs of locals and visitors alike.
“We have been able to hire an additional 11 personnel as well as having the temporary placement of three additional doctors and a cardiologist on staff. We are fortunate to have medical equipment that rivals that of many small hospitals. But more is needed to provide for our citizens. And we have to remember that even though so many are vaccinated, the pandemic has not passed.”
Anna Kami, the director of the Mykonos Arts Festival, stated that although they were not obliged to by the restrictions, they cancelled performances scheduled for this past weekend in the interest of public safety. However, the festival will continue, following all safety protocols. Kami also noted that it will be important for the government to look at what measures don’t work in containing the spread of Covid.
Kami added that one other issue of contention every summer is the appropriation of public spaces, such as beaches, with certain establishments making it impossible for individuals to pass to public beach areas — as is specified in the Geek constitution. Businesses have positioned umbrellas and chaise lounges to the water line, making access to public spaces only available by going into the water, she states.
Chysochoidis stated that for years Mykonos has not had a visible government presence, propagating a sense of lawlessness among visitors. He concluded the town hall by assuring the public that, as of 2021, that mistaken perspective would not continue.