ATHENS, March 11 (Xinhua) -- Greek government announced on Wednesday additional emergency measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, as the number of confirmed cases diagnosed across the country rose to 99.
"Our country has so far not suffered as much as other countries. However, we should not have illusions. The worse is still ahead of us. In this period, complacency is unacceptable. That's why we opted to take strict preventive measures on time to contain the virus' spread and we will continue on this path," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address on Greek national broadcaster ERT.
He called on all citizens to "accept it in the first place," and follow experts' instructions.
Ten new cases were reported since Tuesday, the health ministry said in an e-mailed press release. In total, 95 cases were Greeks and four foreign nationals.
Government spokesperson Stelios Petsas presented during a regular press briefing a new set of measures to deal with the epidemic.
A special-purpose leave from work specifically for the coronavirus is introduced under criteria, and in the private sector one third of the leave will be covered by the state budget.
Those eligible are parents with children under 15 years who will stay at home at least for the next two weeks, as all schools and universities nationwide are shut as of Wednesday.
The interior ministry announced on Wednesday that all playgrounds nationwide will also remain closed.
Public-sector employees will be given the option of flexible working hours, where this is possible.
For the time being, the health ministry's budget has been boosted by 15 million euros (17 million U.S dollars), while extra funds will be allocated to meet needs, Petsas said.
In order to address the challenge, 2,000 nurses and other professionals will be immediately hired with two-year contracts, starting next Monday, according to a health ministry announcement on Wednesday.
All non emergency surgeries in public hospitals will be suspended until further notice, it added.
More measures to stimulate the economy will be taken after the March 16 Eurogroup decisions and depending on developments, Petsas said.
Until then, all citizens bear also personal responsibility to strictly comply with the guidelines given by officials who are advised constantly by experts, he stressed.
Greek authorities have been gradually implementing measures since the first case in the country was reported on Feb. 26. (1 euro=1.1 U.S. dollars)