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Greece On Second Local Lockdown Watch Over Rising COVID-19 Cases

Αssociated Press

A woman hugs her boyfriend as artists protest against the COVID-19 specific measures that affect attendance at performances, outside the Labor Ministry in Athens, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS – Greece's New Democracy government is edging toward a second lockdown to try to stop the fast spread of a second wave of COVID-19, monitoring the effect of more stringent health protocols to see if they work.

Those included expanding requirements to wear masks to outdoor public gathering spaces and limiting how many people can get together, even privately but the numbers spiked to a 24-hour record on Sept. 22 with 453 cases.

Compounding the problem is the sudden jump in cases in a temporary tent city refugee and migrant camp on the island of Lesbos that was built hastily after a fire destroyed the notorious Moria camp.

Officials said there were 253 cases there, bringing worry more people in the camp, who are detained, as well as workers and volunteers who aren't, could be infected and carry it it with them.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said authorities were determined to take “whichever measures are necessary to protect public health,” after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis – who had been lauded for bringing a March lockdown that lasted 10 weeks – reluctant to do so after, fearing an economic hit.

“We have never hesitated in imposing localized lockdowns, from March until now, in many parts of the country,” he said, adding that “Attica is no exception,” indicating closing of non-essential businesses wouldn't be nationwide as before. 

The biggest anxiety is over downtown Athens where people had been defying the wearing of masks and not staying a safe social distance of at least 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) apart and where tourists have brought the virus with them.

Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias is to meet with city officials to talk about more restrictions, such as closing street kiosks and convenience stores earlier, said Kathimerini, but not yet getting tougher on nightclubs beyond making them close at midnight.

The closing of kiosks and convenience stores is aimed at preventing people from buying liquor and beer there and then gathering in public squares to drink, party and carry on without staying away from each other, as has happened.

More police would also be added to those areas to patrol as deterrents to prevent overcrowding although that previously had resulted in crowds battling with the officers assigned.

A special mobile app will soon be available, giving citizens information about the particular restrictions that apply in their area. New measures went into effect Sept. 21 for at least two weeks and put a limit of nine people for private and public gatherings; a cap of 20 people for weddings, baptisms and funerals; and suspending concerts, cultural events, and indoor cinemas too.