GR US

After Defiance, New COVID-19 Mask Measures, Island Parties Crackdown

Αssociated Press

Tourists and Athenians sit at the top of the Areopagus hill, in front of the Acropolis hill, in Athens, on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – Amid widespread scenes of people ignoring or defying health care protocols aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, the wearing of masks will be compulsory now in more public gathering spots but it wasn't said how it will be enforced.

Masks are mandatory in supermarkets for workers and customers but in many stores neither are wearing them or wear them with their noses uncovered, or around their chins with their mouths exposed too.

The new measures come after a small spike in the number of cases, likely caused by people gathering and ignoring the wearing of masks and not staying the social distance of at least two meters (6.56 feet) apart, and by tourists arriving in July.

Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said masks will now be required as well by everyone inside retail shops, public service offices, banks, food stores, bakeries and elevators, said the news agency Reuters.

Churches are excluded for the time being with no explanation why they wouldn't be a be a hot spot for spreading the virus, especially through the giving of Holy Communion and people crowded inside.

“The rise in infections in Athens and Thessaloniki proves the virus is still here. The requirement is for the collective good. The situation must not cause panic but neither complacency,” Hardalias said.

The government also said it would step up checks on islands amid reports of wild partying, especially on Mykonos, known for tax evasion and high prices and hedonism. That came after Citizens Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis went there to check it out.

He said police plan to go after private parties that are prime places for spreading the virus and that gathering will be limited to 40 people, said Kathimerini, although he didn't say why it wouldn't spread in a group that size crowded together.

Mykonos Mayor Konstantinos Koukas recently called for the reinforcement of the local police station that is overwhelmed trying to keep up with enforcement.

Greece’s Health Minister Vasilis Kikilias said earlier the country was not facing a second wave of infections but needs to remain vigilant after a lockdown March 23 before a single death held down the number of cases and fatalities.

There were a reported 4,279 cases and 203 deaths but health officials – as well as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis who was credited with ceding the limelight to scientists and relying on epidemiological data, were growing concerned by new cases.

But there were 52 reported in one day, a big jump after the cases had been held down, and seven of them were imported infections detected at the country’s entry points, the National Organization of Public Health (EODY) said in its daily report.

“We must not let any room for things to go wrong,” Hardalias said. That came after Mitsotakis pleaded with people to wear masks and obey heath rules but was ignored.

"Together we successfully faced the first wave of COVID-19, but the danger did not go away, and we must not forget this now in the summer," he tweeted.

"As we have been listening to the experts all this time, we are now still observing health safety measures, especially when we are gradually opening Greece to visitors." The message was accompanied by a video containing other advice for staying safe.