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Mask Defiance Sees COVID-19 Cases Spike in Greece, More Measures Mulled

Αssociated Press

Tourists and Athenians sit at the top of the Areopagus hill, in front of the Acropolis hill, in Athens, on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – After widespread disregard for requirements masks be worn in public places to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the cases are rising again after a lull, with 57 reported on July 29 alone, worrying health officials in Greece.

Ten of those came from tourists after Greece opened to travelers this month, frantic for cash to prop up an economy brought down by the Coronavirus although the New Democracy government is set to get 72 billion euros ($84.56 billion) in aid from the European Union in grants and loans.

The new cases brought them number to 4,336, of whom 54.4 percent are men, the report said according to Kathimerini, although no deaths were reported, leavint the number at 203.

That's still among the lowest in the world, Greece's record after an early lockdown in March credited with holding down the cases and fatalities and what the government hoped would be an incentive to come but still-fearful tourists are staying away.

The median age of deceased patients was 76 years and most had underlying health problems, the combination the largest mortality grouping for those who get the virus, and the report said eight people are in Intensive Care Units (ICU's) while 127 left.

EODY also said it had conducted a total of 511,429 tests around the country since the start of the pandemic, adding 53,889 tests from 457,540 on July 28 but the anxiety is over the travelers and wild parties on islands where it has become difficult to impossible to trace and trace contacts of carriers.

Requirements for the use of masks beyond supermarkets – where they were not being used in some places – has extended to other public gathering spots except for churches with no explanation why those were exempt.

Immediately after announcing the new mask requirements, the government was reportedly considering even more and tougher measures as people have ignored health protocols and become complacent, health officials said.

“The situation is under control so far, but certainly causing concern. We’re skating on thin ice and it can crack at any minute, especially if scenes of crowding, among young people in particular, continue,” Athens University infectious disease expert and government adviser Nikolaos Sypsas told Kathimerini.

The government said it would crack down on partying and gatherings on islands, especially Mykonos, one of the country's most notorious party places along with widespread tax evasion by restaurants and bars.

As of July 29, the public and staff are required to wear face masks in retail stores, banks and state services, among other venues but there weren't any initial reports on compliance levels or enforcement.

Adviser Yiannis Toundas of the Athens Medical School recommended a campaign promoting safe practices, particularly ahead of the peak of the holiday season, when compliance tends to relax, the paper said.

“The data does not yet show a flare-up of a second wave, but we have all the combustible material for that to happen,” he said.