ATHENS – With enough people ignoring or defying health protocols aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, the New Democracy government has imposed tighter restrictions hoping not to choke off a suffering economy.
The number of Coronavirus cases has soared almost out of control now, regularly more than 300 a day, and deaths jumping, after an early lockdown March 23 that was gradually lifted beginning May 4 credited with holding down the dreaded disease.
Since then, so many people refused or didn't wear masks or stay safe social distances from each other that there's been a second wave that's cresting even higher despite some additional restrictions in Greece.
Most of the cases are in the Greek capital and surrounding area of the Attica prefecture with the government watching two barometers: COVID-19 cases and the effect on an economy struggling to come back from an earlier lockdown.
During a teleconference with government and health officials, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the new regulations were trying to balance saving lives against protecting the economy he said can't stand another lockdown shock.
“If we enforce the measures we have taken, I have no doubt that things will go well.” But while there were signs significantly more people were following the health measures enough still weren't to drive up cases, closing in on nearly 15,000.
Deputy Minister for Citizens’ Protection Nikos Hardalias said the additional conditions will begin Sept. 21 and stay in effect until at least Oct. 4 when there will be a reassessment.
They include a suspension of all concerts and other cultural events, closing indoor movie theaters, limiting public and private gatherings to nine people, sending 40% of employees in the private and public sector home to work; and staggered hours for workers in civil service to prevent mass transport overcrowding.
Authorities are also urging individuals aged over 65 years old to limit their outings and interactions with other people to the essential said Kathimerini in a report on the new measures.
There are also plans to quarantine in specially rented hotels people belonging to vulnerable groups such as the homeless and refugees and migrants diagnosed with COVID-19 but who weren't showing symptoms. Hardalias said.
The government is urging owners and managers of private businesses to observe the protocols because 29 percent of cases have been linked to workplaces but no report on whether places such as night clubs, taverns and bars were being fined or closed for refusing to do so.