Greece Tightens Vise on Easter Restrictions During COVID-19

Αssociated Press

A traffic police officer checks a driver for valid documents following a lockdown order by the Government in Athens on Monday, March 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS – Trying to prevent an Easter exodus to villages and islands during a COVID-19 lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the Coronavirus, Greece's New Democracy is going to add more restrictions on movement.

There's worry in the government that the advent of better spring weather combined with Easter – the traditional time for family gatherings – as well as cabin fever from people pent up for nearly three weeks will see mass flouting, said Kathimerini.

Much of Greece's population annually flees the capital and cities to go to holiday homes at Easter but toll booths, ports and bus terminals are being used to check to ensure that only people with permanent residences can go to villages or islands.

Travelers are required to show tax forms proving where they live and face fines of 300 euros ($328.33) and loss of their license plates for 60 days if found to be violators of controls that also limit travel outside the home to essential missions such as going to supermarkets, banks, hospitals and pharmacies, for which fines are 150 euros ($114.17) for violations.

The new Easter plans include more police checks on national highways although it wasn't said why those roads weren't closed before toll booths to limit entrances only to those allowed to be on them.

If necessary, police will also deploy surveillance aids such as drones or helicopters to better monitor the road network.

“We need to be aware that, apart from posing a threat to public health, moving from cities to the provinces could also cause social unrest as residents of the latter have publicly spoken out against such moves, fearing a spread (of COVID-19)” a senior official of the Citizens’ Protection Ministry not identified told the paper.

The Church of Greece reiterated that services will be held during the Easter period with only clergy allowed inside, along with cantors but without worshippers, and urged people to stay away.

In reply to reports and social media buzz that cathedrals will open their doors to the faithful for a few hours every day during Orthodox Easter Week, a spokesman for the Holy Synod of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece said they won't.

“Under the present circumstances, the Holy Synod does not urge any believer to come to church. Churches are not open to the faithful and that is the point of holding holy services behind closed doors,” the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios and Church of Greece spokesman, Ierotheos, added.