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Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis accused of breaking COVID-19 rules for a second time

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Greece's opposition said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had demonstrated "profound arrogance".
Greece's opposition said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had demonstrated "profound arrogance".   -   Copyright  Giorgos Zachos/InTime News via AP
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Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been accused of violating his own government's COVID-19 pandemic restrictions for the second time in three months.

A viral video showed the Prime Minister attending a lunch with around thirty other guests on the Aegean island of Ikaria on Saturday.

Mitsotakis was filmed on the balcony of a house owned by Christodoulos Stefanadis, a doctor and local lawmaker for the ruling New Democracy party.

Images of the lunch, which were filmed by a neighbour on the remote island, prompted widespread criticism from Greece's opposition parties.

On Friday, the country's government had tightened restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, including a 18:00 curfew at weekends and banning home gatherings.

Mitsotakis had travelled to the islands of Ikaria, Thymaina and Fournoi with other officials to supervise the vaccination process against COVID-19 and to promote development projects.

Greece's former prime minister and leader of the main opposition Syriza party, Alexis Tsipras, said Mitsotakis had shown "profound arrogance".

"The twice sinner is a wise man," Tsipras said in an Instagram post of the viral video, "it is obviously not a repeated act of carelessness, but it shows deep arrogance and boasting".

"The prime minister showed who he really is, a dangerous and irresponsible arrogant,” added Nasos Iliopoulos, spokesman for the Syriza-Progressive Alliance.

Government spokesperson Christos Tarantilis responded that the prime minister had stayed for a "snack and a short meal" and that opposition criticism was "inaccurate".

"The meal [was held] in open air with masks, which were only removed during the meal," Tarantilis said in a statement to Euronews.

"The opposition party is not contributing constructively to the country's struggle to combat the effects of the pandemic [and] is making inaccurate descriptions."

However, Tarantilis added that "in the prime minister’s future tours, every possible care will be taken so that no false image is created".

In December, PM Mitsotakis was heavily criticised for posing without a facemask alongside five motocross riders during a mountain bike ride with his wife to Mount Parnes, 45 km from his home in Athens.

Mitsotakis later acknowledged that he had been wrong to be photographed without a mask, but added that his "small moment of carelessness was blown up out of proportion".

At the time, officials from Syriza hit back at what it described as "ridiculous excuses" as political opponents attempted to score points during the pandemic.

The Greek government accused Alexis Tsipras of "political hypocrisy" and claimed the Syriza party leader was living extravagantly during the health crisis in an upscale seaside home.

Nearly 6,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Greece, with vast majority of them since the end of October during the second wave of the pandemic.

The country has been in lockdown since November, with bars and restaurants shut and a ban in place on public gatherings or family visits between municipalities.

On Friday, non-essential shops in Athens and Thessaloniki were also closed to prevent the mobility of citizens, although schools were kept open.

On Monday, Hellenic police said that they issued €300 fines for over 108,000 violations of movement restrictions since the measures were introduced in November. Nearly 35,000 fines have also been issued for not citizens using wearing a facemask.

"The fines, it seems, are not for the monarch Mr. Mitsotakis, only for the citizens," Syriza said after Saturday's viral video.

But the government has hit back and accused the opposition of calling for marches and rallies against the pandemic restrictions.

"As the national vaccination program unfolds, [we are] laying the groundwork for overcoming the health crisis in the coming months, which requires the support and demonstration of unity and solidarity from all political circles," government spokesperson Tarantilis told Euronews.

"Alexis Tsipras chooses the tactic of division and disorientation."