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Greece Will Extend COVID-19 Mask Wearing to Outdoor Spaces

Αssociated Press

A pupil wearing a face mask to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus, arrives at a primary school as a teacher waits to take her temperature during the start of the new school year in Athens, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, Pool)

ATHENS – Unable to get enough compliance with health protocols to slow the resurgence of COVID-19, Greece's New Democracy is expected to require their use in outdoor spaces, including open air markets known as laiki.

With the reopening of schools on Sept. 14, and scenes of some parents and grandparents without masks escorting children and grandchildren to class, there is said to be anxiety in the government the Coronavirus could further spread.

Another possible measure is 15-day suspension of  mass outdoor events such as concerts, theatrical productions and lowering the attendance limit for events such as weddings and christenings from 50 to 20, said Kathimerini.

After an early lockdown in March held down the number of cases and deaths the gradual week-by-week reopening beginning May 4 of non-essential businesses, opening to tourists in July and people defying or ignoring the use of masks and social distancing has seen a second wave hit the country.

That has led to growing worry about further transmission in the Greek capital and surrounding prefecture of Attica which combined hold half the country's population of nearly 11 million people.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had told his committee of health experts to draw up a list of measures after his constant appeals for people to show responsibility didn't work and with no talk of a second lockdown.

Indeed, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said more restrictions would be imposed on a piecemeal basis with no explanation why that would work to stop cross-contamination in other sectors.

“The explosion of cases worldwide, the fact that there is greater movement among the population with the reopening of schools and also the increased viral load in certain areas like Pella and Attica, are keeping us on alert,” Petsas told a press briefing.

Unlike in Attica where the majority of new cases appear to be community transmissions, the northern Greek region Pella has been struggling with outbreaks at several food processing plants that have results in dozens of people becoming infected, the paper said, with no report whether food was affected.

Existing restrictions in Attica include the closing of all cafes, bars and restaurants between midnight and 7 a.m., a four person limit on people at tables and mandatory use of masks in all indoor public spaces.

Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said that additional restrictions may be imposed on specific municipal areas of the Greek capital if needed although the government hasn't moved to close businesses that defy health protocols.

“Attica comprises 5 million people – that is half of Greece – so it is obvious that we would not consider taking unnecessary horizonal measures just like that, for the entire Attica Regional Unit,” Kikilias told the broadcaster Open TV.

Apart from the capital and the port of Piraeus, the Attica Regional Unit also comprises the islands of the Saronic Gulf, a small part of the Peloponnese peninsula and a few islands off the eastern Peloponnese coast, including Kythira.

“EODY (National Organization for Public Health) and our scientists are responsible for analyzing the data and the Civil Protection Authority for implementing localized measures in areas experiencing outbreaks. So, as the picture becomes clearer on a scientific level, we will be able to intervene more locally, at the municipal level, so as to limit the possibility of a local surge,” Kikilias also said.