Greece Goes to Regional Lockdowns, But Calls Them Restrictions

Αssociated Press

FILE - A man wearing a face mask against the spread of the coronavirus, rides an electric scooter in front of the White Tower during the lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

ATHENS – Greece's attention is locked on restoring the economy, not on any more lockdowns aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, with the plan being to use tighter health restrictions as required – almost identical to lockdowns.

After the closing of non-essential businesses in 2020 and into 2021 as the pandemic raged put a big hurt on revenues, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' New Democracy government is focused on business and investors.

That's even as some regions have faced near-lockdown conditions, particularly in northern Greece as the Delta Variant – along with anti-vaxxers refusing shots and people ignoring health measures – has continued to spread the Coronavirus.

Officials not named told Kathimerini that recent clamps on Greece's second-largest city, Thessaloniki and abutting regions weren't lockdowns, but restrictions, although the conditions included curfews.

They said the government is “the same restrictions that were imposed during the summer on islands such as Mykonos, for example,” which largely failed because so many people ignored them, the same now happening elsewhere.

Regions classified as red impose an overnight curfew from 1 to 6 a.m. – although this does not apply to people who have to travel for work or for health emergencies – and a 24-hour ban on music at all entertainment venues, including bars and cafes, the paper added.

Mitsotakis, during a meeting with Slovakia’s Prime Minister Eduard Heger, said that, “On their way to the end of the pandemic, our economies cannot suffer further restrictions,” even though he imposed them under another name.

That flies in the face of earlier warnings from health officials and members of the government's advisory panel of doctors and scientists that a fifth wave of the virus could overwhelm the country again this autumn.

But government officials also not identified told the paper that this winter will be different than 2020 because more than half the population is vaccinated – but still far short of the 70 percent benchmark health authorities said is needed to slow the pandemic.

Mitsotakis said earlier he would consider mandatory shots for all – only health care workers must be inoculated for now – if the pandemic worsens but has pulled back from that, admittedly to concentrate on revenues.

There are also some 600,000 unvaccinated people aged 60 and over, the most vulnerable groups, who it is feared could become ill or be hospitalized and put on ventilators, putting more pressure on the National Health System with thousands of health care workers, including doctors who aren't vaccinated now suspended.

The decision on whether to hold the annual military and student parades on the October 28 national holiday will not be the same across the entire country and will depend on the epidemiological status of each area, Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis said.

“Any decisions taken for parades in areas that are red will apply to Thessaloniki as well,” he said and urged the citizens of the northern port city to get vaccinated, a plea that has failed with anti-vaxxers, the city with the lowest vaccination rate in Greece and Europe despite being a New Democracy stronghold.