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Coronavirus Fallout Grows in Greece, Judges Call for Tougher Measures

March 13, 2020

ATHENS – With the New Democracy government implementing a plan in steps to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus in Greece, judges said shutting the courts wasn’t enough because other legal services mean lawyers and secretaries will still gather.

The City of Athens moved swiftly to close off cultural centers and events, with concerts stopping and sports events ended for now although museums will be allowed to stay open under requirements to limit how many people can enter or look at exhibits.

“Museum staff must ensure that in every exhibition room – depending on its size – there are no more than 20-30 people at a time,” an announcement by the ministry said. “The same holds for large number of visitors waiting at ticket booths.” Archaeological sites will operate normally for now though.

One of the most congested areas in the capital, the central markets along Athinas Street that contain wholesale fish and meat kiosks where crowds jostle will be allowed to stay open with no explanation why it wouldn’t be a health hazard.

The central market in Thessaloniki, the country’s second-largest city will stay open as will 10 fish markets that provide much of the supplies and fresh produce, the management said, adding they will abide by government directives for hygiene.

And after a Supreme Court prosecutor said people who violate protective measures would be prosecuted as criminals, the owner of a school tests preparatory cramming school in Ioannina in northwestern Greece, was arrested for holding a class.

The Association of Administrative Judges said a joint ministerial decision to suspend most trials at the country’s courts as part of a series of measures to stop the spread of the new coronavirus didn’t go far enough.

Because of deadlines required by law or set by the court for the filing of legal remedies, relevant documents and other procedures have not suspended, meaning lawyers and secretaries are still needed in courts, reported Kathimerini.

The union said the secretariats could operate on skeleton staff while the suspension lasts, with trials on hold but other court services still operating, along with hearings as part of a law allowing a swift hearing if an arrest is made within 48 hours of an alleged crime as well as cases where the statute of limitations is due to expire.

Ironically, the move by Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyiannis to suspend cultural events and close buildings came just as the city was going to inaugurate a newly-renovated Omonia Square near City Hall that was supposed to be a major public event, now delayed.

Among the venues to be closed is the Athens Technopolis in Gazi, a major drawing card for multiple events that is one of the most popular gathering spots in the city, not far from the tourist meccas of Plaka, Monastiraki and a pedestrian walkway leading to the Acropolis Museum and other sites.

The Athens municipality has also shuttered the Municipal Art Gallery in Metaxourgio, the Arts Centre in Eleftherias Park, the Chatzimichalis Folk Art and Traditions Museum in Plaka, the Platonos Digital Museum, the Dodecanese House at Sepolia, the “Melina” cultural centre in Thissio, the Antonis Tritsis Amphitheatre, its creative learning centres, the theatres Olympia – Maria Callas and Anna and Maria Kalouta in Neos Kosmos, as well as the library at Larissis station, said the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency (ANA-MPA.)

The operation of indoor sports facilities run by the municipality’s Culture and Sports Organization (OPANDA) was also suspended and theaters, cinemas and cultural event facilities will also shut down for 14 days as part of measures to contain the deadly coronavirus.

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