COVID-19 Holiday Lockdown Leniency Didn't Spike Greece's Cases

Αssociated Press

A man wearing a face mask against the spread of coronavirus, stands at Syntagma square which is illuminated with Christmas lights in central Athens, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS - Worry that easing COVID-19 health measures during the holiday season would see cases soar again in Greece during a second lockdown apparently haven’t been borne out with preliminary data showing it was less than feared.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Parliament on Jan. 15 that, “It seems that we managed to overcome the challenge of Christmas and New Year’s Eve without too much turbulence.”

Not known yet though is the effect of letting the Greek Church be exempt from protocols to hold Epiphany Day celebrations after clerical leaders told Mitsotakis they would defy him in any case before he relented after saying he wouldn’t. 

Mitsotakis said the New Democracy government’s decision to toughen a lenient quasi-lockdown had worked although he went back-and-forth between being strict and easy in an attempt to also save a battered economy.

That has led to a likely partial easing again on |an. 18, with the lockdown otherwise still in place, but retail stories seen being allowed to return to the click-and-collect method of shoppers making purchases online and reservations for store pickups.

While he was buoyed by the epidemiological data not being as grim as it could have been - there are still nearly 600 cases a day and deaths ongoing - he said the public should stick to wearing masks as required and staying a safe social distance apart.

People growing weary of measures and violating them saw cases grow fast in other European Union countries, he said, and to make sure it doesn’t happen in Greece the fine for violations is being raised from 300 euros ($364.09) to 500 euros ($606.81.)