Interior Minister Nikos Nouris clarified this week that the limit of one text message per day for exception-based movements during the pandemic does not apply to situations where going out is absolutely necessary.
The latest decree on restrictions of movement, aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, lowered the previous number of times people could get permission to go outside, from unlimited down to just one per day.
While many category options were specified, such as going to the pharmacy, getting basic supplies, and providing assistance to others in need, there was also another category that included "other reasons" as long as they did not violate the decree of movement once a day or based on exceptional circumstances.
'Citizens must be in a position to show proof in order to justify their movement, while authorities will have to be in a position to confirm it'
Local media said Nouris clarified that movement in situations of dire necessity were also exempted from the SMS limit, so that people who already reached their daily quota could still go out if it was absolutely necessary.
But exceptions of dire necessity included categories listed as also requiring SMS permissions based on the decree, such as going to the pharmacy, giving blood, visiting the doctor, and helping others in need. Additionally, transporting a soldier on duty was also allowed in the "other" category.
According to Philenews, Nouris said "citizens must be in a position to show proof in order to justify their movement, while authorities will have to be in a position to confirm it."
Previously, Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis had weighed in on the restrictions, saying dog walkers did not have to seek permission through the SMS 8988 service to walk their pets normally.
Dog walkers were relieved upon hearing the news after many took to social media to complain that Nouris' strict interpretation of the rules meant that law-abiding citizens who cared for their pets felt they had to make a choice between walking their dogs and doing the groceries.
WHO warns against lifting measures too soon
But it was not immediately clear whether the government had any plans to raise the daily limit of SMS text messages beyond one per day.
Media reports over the weekend said the government was looking into the possibility of lifting some restrictions, such as allowing commercial businesses and shops to open in early May, excluding stores in large shopping malls.
But World Health Organization officials have warned governments around the world against lifting restrictive measures too soon.
“While Covid-19 accelerates very fast, it decelerates much more slowly. In other words, the way down is much slower than the way up,” WHO said on Monday.