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Greece Introduces Stricter Measures to Curb Spread of Coronavirus

Αssociated Press

FILE- Women exercise on Philopappou Hill, backdropped by the ancient Parthenon Temple on the Acropolis Hill. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

ATHENS -- A return to working from home for both private and public companies, stricter crowd control measures, and the quarantine of asymptomatic vulnerable groups such as migrants who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus were some of the emergency measures introduced on Friday afternoon by the government.

Following a rise in coronavirus infections particularly in the center of Athens, and an attendant rise in hospitalizations, Deputy Minister for Civil Protection and Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias said that the measures would go into effect on Monday, September 21 and last through October 4.

Citing statistical figures, Hardalias said that since the outbreak of the pandemic in Greece on February 25, there have been 14,400 people infected by the virus. Of these, 4,084 cases are active to the present day. Furthermore, over 50 pct of these (2,100) are located in the Attica region, with 263 hospitalized and 1,837 quarantined at home. Of these 2,100 Attica residents, the minister daid, 966 live in the municipality of Athens.

A daily rate of 3 new confirmed cases per 100,000 residents places Attica in the "orange alert" state, Hardalias said, with a steadily rising incidence. The highest rate of infections are noted in the following three groups: private sector employees (29.07 pct), retirees (13.43 pct) and unemployed (13.27 pct).

He then announced the new measures, as follows:

- Indoor and outdoor gatherings are limited to 9 people, except for areas already regulated, such as restaurants

- Indoor and outdoor concerts are suspended, as are indoor film screenings

- Baptisms, weddings and funerals may have a maximum of 20 people in attendance

- People from vulnerable groups such as migrants who have tested positive to the virus but are asymptomatic will be transferred to hotels and be under medical care there

- 40 pct of private and public business employees must work from home

- Public sector employees must arrive at and depart from work in three stages (at 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 a.m.)

- Private sector companies must do the same, but at four stages

- People 65 or older must limit their social outings for 14 days, and their contacts to immediate family members

Hardalias said that the National Public Health Organization (EODY) will conduct rapid testing for the virus at schools, public transportation and hospitals. The public should observe three preventative measures to help the effort to control infections, he said: avoiding public gatherings; use a mask on public transportation; and be more vigilant if they belong to older age groups.

Speaking earlier, novel coronavirus health committee spokesman Gkikas Magiorkinis said that infections in Attica almost doubled the last two weeks, with the center of Athens being particularly loaded. The rate of intubations also doubled, in less than two weeks.

Referring to the new hotspot in Kara Tepe on Lesvos, where migrants and refugees were relocated after the burndown of Moria, Magiorkinis said that over 4,500 tests were carried out there and continuing in the local population as well. So far, 187 people have tested positive, he said.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Health Ministry representative for the novel coronavirus Sotiris Tsiodras had warned that additional measures would be announced the same day for the region of Attica.

In a tweet summarizing the government's concerns, Mitsotakis said, "It's obvious there is a coronavirus issue in Attica which must be dealt with. We are prepared, following a related recommendation by the [Health] committee to take additional [preventative] measures. I am calling on older Greeks in particular to be doubly careful."

They both stressed that despite a rise in intubated patients in hospitals, the National Health System was not facing ICU bed shortages.

The current numbers they cited include 554 hospitalized people, occupying between 20 pct and 30 pct of hospital beds, Tsiodras said.