Army of Greek Police, Drones Stop COVID-19 Easter Exodus

Αssociated Press

A policeman wearing a face mask to protect from coronavirus stops a car at a roadblock in Elesfina toll stations, west of Athens, Friday, April 10. 2020. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS – Greek authorities pulled out all the stops to keep people from breaking a lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, using drones and 5,000 people to keep people from getting to villages and islands.

The confinement was even within neighborhoods to keep people apart under social distancing guidelines barring gatherings, such as those traditionally done at Easter in backyards where families and friends would grill a lamb for the holiday.

“This Easter is different. We will not go to our villages. We will not roast in our yards. We will not go to our churches. And, of course, we will not gather in the homes of relatives and friends,” the government spokesman Stelios Petsas said.

“For us to continue being together, this year we stay apart,” he added, said the British newspaper The Guardian in a report.

The lockdown, imposed early, has largely worked to hold down the number of cases and rank Greece among the best in the world with the response, with some 2,235 cases and 110 deaths in a country of 11 million people, and far fewer critically-ill patients.

Lauded by everyone from historians to the international Bridge tank think tank for the rapid response, the New Democracy government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis nonetheless faced a test for Easter to keep people at home.

But he was aided by the Greek Church which told people that churches would be closed to the public and services conducted only by clergy and support staff, some of them broadcast to a country hungry for hope.

Greeks poured onto their balconies at midnight, holding candles and turning on lights and yelling greetings to each other after being urged to do so by Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyiannis, who had the sky lit up in places.

Ironically, Greeks famous for disobedience and breaking laws they don't like have taken to the lockdown seriously despite more than 40,000 violations bringing offenders fines of 150 euros ($163.12 ) since it was imposed on March 23.

There are signs they are growing weary of confinement, however, with more leaving their homes without permission for allowed trips such as going to supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, hospitals, doctors, exercise or businesses allowed to be open.

Rogue clerics and unrulier Greeks had vowed to mark Easter in defiance after two clerics were prosecuted earlier for conducting services but fines for trying to reach villages and islands – people had to show tax forms proving they were going to permanent residences – were doubled to 300 euros ($326.24) and police had roadblocks to check for compliance.